Today three large multinationals, which together ship over 350 million tons of commodities across the world’s oceans annually, have agreed to charter only the most fuel-efficient shipping vessels on the market. The cooperation of food giant Cargill, the chemical manufacturer Huntsman Corporation and the British oil company UNIPEC is a huge step towards reducing the global shipping industry’s carbon emissions.
The announcement is a huge victory for a coalition of activist groups that have pushed for cleaner and more fuel-efficient ships. Groups including Carbon War Room and RightShip have cooperated to develop ShippingEfficiency.org, a huge data hub that tracks a bevy of metrics on over 60,000 ships that sail across the world. In the past, there was little to motivate ship owners to improve their ships’ performance when the charterer would benefit. Today’s announcement, however, is a game changer that will benefit everyone engaged within the shipping sector.
With this commitment to both track and engage only the cleanest possible ships, these three companies have tackled one of the most vexing problems that confronts all companies that conduct business across borders: the effect that their logistics has on the environment. While many companies have succeeded in eliminating inefficiencies across their supply chain, the challenge becomes more difficult when it comes to global shipping. Shipping fuel is among the dirtiest forms of energy used day-to-day. And while screams of “shop local” have grown louder in recent years, the stubborn fact persists that international trade is the economic lifeblood for most of the world’s population–as it has been for centuries. Global trade will not, nor should it, wither–the trick is to find ways to reduce the impact that the shipping industry has on the planet, and on their customers’ bottom line, as well.
Now companies can join Cargill, Huntsman and UNIPEC and view the environmental performance of container ships, tankers, bulk carriers and cargo ships. Users can instantly assess a vessel’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions and fuel performance, view RightShip’s Existing Vessel Design Index, or “EVDI” rating and then compare various ships’ metrics against each other. According to Peter Boyd, Chief Operating Officer of Carbon War Room, this first such step towards energy efficiency will not only benefit the environment, but companies’ balance sheets because of lower operating costs that they will gain.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.
Image of the port of Oakland courtesy Wikipedia.