Shipping is generally regarded as a fuel-efficient mode of transport, but its sheer volume and rapid growth make it a major consumer of energy and source of carbon dioxide emissions.
A new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has assessed the long-term prospects for increasing shipping efficiency. The findings indicate that industry-leading ships are about twice as efficient as industry laggards across major ship types. For example, the top five per cent of container ships have a carbon dioxide (CO2) emission intensity (i.e. emission rate per unit of cargo carried) that is 38 per cent lower than industry-average container ships.
Moreover, the bottom five per cent of industry laggards emit 48 per cent more CO2 than average to move one unit of cargo over a given distance. This means that a shipper putting its goods on a laggard ship would have a carbon intensity (and therefore an associated fuel use per cargo unit) 2.4 times higher than the industry-leading group. Even broader efficiency variation is seen between shipping industry leaders and laggards across other major ship types.
The analysis indicates that there is the potential to reduce CO2 emissions in absolute terms even while freight movement doubles, as it is expected to do by 2040. Moving to industry-leading ship efficiency practices could reduce emissions of CO2 by 300 million metric tons per year and oil consumption by two million barrels per day by 2030, compared to business-as-usual efficiency practices.
Source: “Long-term potential for increased shipping efficiency through the adoption of industry-leading practices” (July 2013). By H. Wang and N. Lutsey. ICCT. Link: www.theicct.org