Maersk tackles energy, air quality issues
Maersk Line, the world’s largest containership operator, has achieved substantial reductions in exhaust emissions for the past six years in large measure due to its careful network planning and execution, according to Lee Kindberg, director of environment and sustainability in North America.
Last year, the carrier’s carbon emissions dropped 12 percent even though its container volume grew 4 percent. It produced 34 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions per container by kilometer carried last year compared to 2007.
Having fuel-efficient and large ships that can carry more cargo at one time is important, but the trick is matching the correct ships with the required service and then operating them at optimal efficiency, Kindberg said April 8 at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Port Stakeholders Summit in Baltimore.
Carriers several years ago introduced the concept of slow steaming to reduce the consumption of bunker fuel as the price shot up to $700 a ton, but Kindberg said “steady steaming” is necessary too because speeding up and slowing down burns more fuel.
The Danish carrier uses special software to glean insight from raw data generated by operations and fuel use on every leg of every route each vessel sails to identify ways to improve fuel efficiency.
“It’s amazing what you can do once you really get to it and measure your progress,” she said.
In two years, Maersk will have 20 Triple E vessels in operation. These behemoths of the sea can carry 18,000 TEUs and are 50 percent more energy efficient on a per box basis than the average vessel plying the Asia-Europe trade lane. They emit half the carbon and much less sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.
Maersk operates more than 600 vessels. It uses 22 WAFMAX-class vessels for the shallower, less-developed ports in Africa and 16 SAMMAX-class vessels on South American routes. The 4,500-TEU WAFMAX vessels produce 28 percent less CO2 than the average for its class operating in Africa and the SAMMAX ones are 25 to 50 percent better than the average in South America in terms of carbon output.
Last year, Maersk retrofitted 137 vessels to improve their fuel efficiency, including 16 chartered vessels, Kindberg said.
Beyond the process improvements, Maersk has aggressively pursued technological innovations to reduce fuel consumption in its fleet.
All new vessels ordered by Maersk come with waste-heat recovery systems, which remove heat from smokestack gases and use them to generate steam and electricity. The technique has been used for many years in buildings. More than 70 Maersk vessels now have heat recovery systems, which reduce energy use by 10 to 11 percent, Kindberg said.
Optimized propellers, hulls and trim are standard on many vessels in the fleet, with some existing vessels designed with bulbous bows provide a better shape in the water for the new, slower operating speeds.
Special antifouling paint helps reduce friction during transit.
Maersk has also started to deploy QUEST low-energy refrigerated containers that are used to store temperature-sensitive goods, including pharmaceuticals and electronics. The company partnered with a university in the Netherlands to develop the technology, which cuts energy consumption in half whether the box is at sea, on a truck or train, or in a port.
“We are also working with some customers to not put a generator set on reefers going short distances,” which has the additional benefit of speeding up truck turn times in ports because loading and unloading temperature-controlled units typically takes longer, Kindberg said.
The second phase of more stringent international emissions standards will kick in next year for waters up to 200 miles off the United States and Canada, with the sulfur content of fuel going down from the current 1 percent requirement to 0.1 percent. The rules are designed to cut down on fine particulate matter and ozone that create smog and cause respiratory problems.
Kindberg said she hopes the emissions control area is enforced to ensure a level playing field among carriers.
Although many ports are installing on-dock power stations to enable vessels to hook up to the electric grid rather than burn auxiliary diesel engines to run systems while at berth, Kindberg said “the jury is still out” on whether electrification is the best way to improve air quality for ships at rest. Shore power also could prove problematic for vessels that stay for shorter periods because of the time it takes to plug and unplug a vessel, she added.
She also called for stronger alignment between governments, ports, terminals and shipping lines on environmental programs, objectives and metrics to increase environmental progress.
This article was published in the June 2014 issue of American Shipper.