Hamburg Süd Looks to Cut Emissions by 26%…Uh, Good Luck with That

TEU containership Aliança Santos hamburg sud
The 2.524 TEU containership Aliança Santos, image: Hamburg Sud

“Industry experts estimate that the liner operators overall had to accept a loss of some 5-6 billion US dollars in 2011 after profits of around 14 billion US dollars in the previous year.”

That was a quote from a press release from containership owner Hamburg Süd in April of this year.  Yet Hamburg Süd announced today they are “pressing ahead vigorously with its commitment to environmental protection,” aiming to reduce their CO2 emissions by 26 percent per TEUkm by 2020.

The first question that comes to mind in the liner industry is, “what about self-preservation?”

With the major trade routes between Europe and Asia being filled by ships of 10,000 TEU or larger, economy of scale, and thus lower overall emissions, is likely a tough nut to crack for Hamburg Süd which owns 160 ships, the largest of which are 7,100 TEU. They do however, have six 9,600 TEU ships scheduled to be delivered in 2013/14.

Hamburg Süd aims to reach this target by taking a variety of measures, such as investing in the energy efficiency of owned ships, increasing average vessel size, chartering energy-efficient ships, accompanied by an improved and comprehensive environmental information system.

“We have always felt committed to the protection of the environment and have launched numerous voluntary initiatives and projects in the past to mitigate environmental impact,” said Dr Ottmar Gast, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hamburg Süd. “With the self-imposed cut in CO2 emissions we now intend to go a step further and make our environmental commitment clear for all to follow. At the same time, we are confident that the measurable results will enable us to identify further optimization potential in the future.”

Hamburg Süd is of course not the only shipping company looking to cut their emissions down, but considering the financial pressure on the container industry right now, it appears to be a rather lofty goal.  Maybe they have a few tricks up their sleeve… well shall see.