For many years, environmentalists have advocated slower driving and slower flying as ways to save fuel and cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases. This equation applies at sea as well as on land and in the air. When the price of oil reached $145 a barrel, the container shipping giant Maersk Line decided to take action. Based in Copenhagen, Maersk is the largest shipping line in the world, with more than 500 vessels. Instead of the standard speed of 24 or 25 knots (just under 29 miles per hour), the Ebba Maersk sails at 12 knots (just under 14 miles per hour), a speed known in the industry as “super slow steaming.” Super slow steaming reduces fuel consumption from 350 tons per day to 100 to 150 tons and saves $5,000 an hour. Maersk has shifted hundreds of its ships to super slow steaming. Other shipping lines resisted slowing their vessels down at first, but now many of them have adopted “slow steaming” speed (20 knots, or 23 miles per hour) or super slow steaming. The recent recession created a further incentive for container shipping lines to reduce costs and save energy. Among other measures, Maersk’s ships have lowered their interior lighting and substituted rolls of paper towels for paper napkins in their dining salons. “The previous focus has been on ‘What will it cost?’ and ‘Get it to me as fast as possible,’ ” said Søren Stig Nielsen, the director of environmental sustainability at Maersk. “But now there is a third dimension. What’s the CO2 footprint?” Then there are the containers themselves. Whether empty or full, they occupy the same amount of space. Made of steel, they are still heavy even when empty. The Dutch company Cargoshell has devised a container that, when empty, collapses in less than half a minute to one-quarter the size of a full one. Thus Cargoshells can be stacked more compactly than steel containers. Steel containers usually have outward-opening doors that take up an entire side panel. The Cargoshell’s door simply rolls up or down. Cargoshells are made of fiber-reinforced composite materials, so they weigh 25 percent less than steel containers. They need no paint because they do not corrode. The composites are good insulators, important for temperature control. Manufacturing Cargoshells generates less carbon dioxide than manufacturing steel containers. All these factors add up to reduced costs, energy savings, and lower carbon emissions. The ports where cargo ships arrive and depart are crowded with cranes, trucks, trains, tugboats, and ferries—all of which emit diesel exhaust into the atmosphere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared diesel exhaust to be a possible carcinogen. To reduce exposure to it, the EPA has initiated Clean Ports USA, a voluntary, incentive-based program to encourage ports and truck fleet owners to reduce emissions. Strategies include changing to cleaner burning diesel fuels; retrofitting or repairing existing diesel engines (which can last 20 or 30 years); replacing aging engines or vehicles with newer, less-polluting ones; and reducing time that engines are left idling. In an unlikely alliance, the Teamsters union and environmentalists have joined forces to persuade the Port of Los Angeles to ban older trucks from transporting goods away from port and have the trucking companies buy newer, cleaner-running rigs. Taken separately, all these measures are worthy efforts to fight global warming. Taken together, they could add up to a “green” integration of almost all aspects of the shipping industry
Questions for Critical Thinking
1. How do Maersk and Cargoshell carry out their responsibilities to society?
2. Many of the goods you buy and use are imported from overseas and sold more cheaply than if they were made in the United States. But do they have hidden, nonmonetary costs? Use the information in this case as a guide.
Sources: Steven Greenhouse, “Clearing the Air at American Ports,” The New York Times, February 26, 2010, http://www.newyorktimes.com; Maersk Web site, http://www.maersk.com, accessed February 18, 2010; “Maersk Cuts Fuel Use, Emissions 30% by Slowing Down,” Environmental Leader, February 18, 2020, http://www.environmentalleader .com; Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Slow and Steady Across the Sea Aids Profit and the Environment,” The New York Times, February 17, 2010, http://www .newyorktimes.com; John W. Miller, “Maersk: Container Ship Cuts Costs to Stay Afloat,” Polaris Institute, February 2010, http://www .polarisinstitute.org; Cargoshell Web site, http://www.cargoshell.com, accessed February 12, 2010; Clean Ports USA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://epa.gov, accessed February 12, 2010; Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, “Cargoshell Collapsible Shipping Containers: A Greener and Flatter Way to Transport Goods,” Triple Pundit, February 5, 2010, http://www.triplepundit.com.