Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Container Shipping Giant Bans Travel on Northern Sea Route for the Sake of the Planet

More LNG Use and Major Policy Initiative Announced Despite Commercial Advantages
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – WORLDWIDE – Before he headed off to meet other world leaders at the G7 summit, French President, Emmanuel Macron invited a variety of stakeholders in the global shipping industry to discuss climate change and both the country's, and the industry's, plans on how to deal with the environmental problems the world will face in the coming decades.

One of the groups selected to take part in the discussions with bot the President and Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Labour Muriel Pénicaud, and Deputy Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Brune Poirson, was CMA CGM, a company which ranks as one of the largest ocean container carriers in the world.

Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, used the occasion to announce two major decisions on his company’s future energy policies, one of which will come as a surprise, to say the least, to many industry observers.

The first, less surprising announcement, was to confirm that CMA CGM is to forge ahead in its quest to pioneer the use of liquefied natural gas to power ultra-large vessels. The company believes that LNG significantly affects its environmental footprint allowing drastic reductions compared to traditional heavy oil cutting sulphur and fine particles by 99% and nitrogen oxides and CO2 by 85% and up to 20% respectively.

CMA CGM says it is leading the way with its decision to use LNG power in its ultra-large ships that carry up to 23,000 TEU after seven years of development in collaboration with shipyards, suppliers, large groups, SMEs and research laboratories. The first ship in this fleet of nine container vessels will be delivered as early as 2020. By 2022, the Group will have 20 LNG-powered vessels in its fleet.

CMA CGM also continues its research into other energy sources and was the world’s first container shipping company to successfully test a biofuel oil, made with 20% recycled vegetable oils and forest residues. It is also establishing research partnerships to develop hydrogen as a potential long-term energy solution.

The announcement however which will, at the very least, give pause for thought to other members of the ocean container shipping industry, was to say the CMA CGM fleet will not make use of the Northern Sea Route. Today, the Northern Sea Route, which runs the length of the Siberian Coast, connects Asia to Europe. It has been made navigable due to the effects of global warming. Rich in its unique and largely unexplored biodiversity, the Arctic plays an essential role in regulating ocean currents and global climate patterns.

CMA CGM Believes use of the Northern Sea Route will represent a significant danger to the unique natural ecosystems of this part of the world, mainly due to the numerous threats posed by accidents, oil pollution or collisions with marine wildlife. The route is a tempting chance for cutting fuel costs and delivery times as it becomes more navigable for longer periods every year, and one being seriously considered by other shipping interests.

However, to avoid posing a greater threat to this fragile environment, Rodolphe Saadé has decided that none of the CMA CGM Group’s 500 vessels will use the Northern Sea Route along Siberia, which is now open due to climate change. With this decision, CMA CGM says it is making the resolute choice to protect the environment and the planet’s biodiversity despite the major competitive advantage this route represents for shipping companies. Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, observed:

“We make these choices to meet the needs of our employees and our customers, who are increasingly concerned about the environment. But above all, we make these decisions for the future, to leave our children a cleaner planet. These are brave, bold choices, which go far beyond purely business decisions. This is a firm belief for us, born out of our family ethos and our strong human values, to make responsible, forward-looking choices. That is how we plan to build fairer, more environmentally-friendly trade, and I invite the entire industry, competitors, partners and customers, to join us.”

During the meeting at the Elysée Palace, Rodolphe Saadé delivered to the President of France, on behalf of the maritime industry, the SAILS (Sustainable Actions for Innovative and Low-impact Shipping) Charter, formalised the initiative of the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition. Through this charter, the ten French signatory shipping companies, all members of Armateurs de France, commit to implementing specific actions in the reduction of emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, whale protection, vessel energy optimization and performance, plus strengthening of relations with the scientific community.