Maersk Cuts Fuel Use, Emissions 30% by Slowing Down

by | Feb 18, 2010

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MaerskDanish shipping company Maersk has cut fuel consumption on major routes by as much as 30 percent, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an equal amount by cutting the top cruising speed of its ships in half over the past two years, reports the New York Times.

Maersk’s director of environmental sustainability Soren Stig Nielsen told the newspaper that traveling more slowly delivers a great opportunity to lower emissions without a huge leap in innovation.

Slowing down from high speeds reduces emissions because it reduces drag and friction, which holds true for travel on water, air or land, reports the New York Times. Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency, said in the article that planes could easily reduce emissions by slowing down 10 percent, adding only about five to six minutes of flight time between New York and Boston or Copenhagen and Brussels.

And according to the International Energy Agency driving 55 instead of 65 miles per hour cuts carbon dioxide emissions of American cars by about 20 percent.

Another way shipping firms can reduce their carbon footprint is through the use of collapsible ocean shipping containers, according to its maker Cargoshell.

Despite the various ways that shippers are trying to curb their emission, there are calls for a tax on fuels used in shipping to reduce carbon emissions in the industry.

However, a new study from the European Commission shows that a cap-and-trade scheme is the best option for cutting carbon emissions from shipping in EU waters, reports Carbon Positive.

CE Delft’s study “Technical support for European action to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport (PDF)” finds that the emission of ships visiting EU ports was equivalent to 6.1 percent of the trading bloc’s overall emissions. This is higher than previously estimated, which places shipping in the company of big industrial and energy emitters already covered in the EU ETS, reports Carbon Positive.

The study recommends that the cap-and-trade scheme apply to emissions on all voyages to EU ports, with most emission permits auctioned. It also found that a carbon tax could reduce emissions by a similar volume but it would be more difficult to implement and most of the benefit would come from investing the tax revenues elsewhere such as in clean technology in developing countries, as proposed at the UNFCCC, reports Carbon Positive.

The international shipping industry has been urging the UN to set regulations on shipping emissions.

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