AFIF Hapag-Lloyd

Joining CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd Rules Out Northern Sea Route Passages

Mike Schuler
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October 7, 2019

Photo: Hapag-Lloyd

Hapag-Lloyd has ruled out sending its ships through the Northern Sea Route for the foreseeable future despite faster transit times, joining rival CMA CGM in shunning Arctic shipping due to heightened environmental risks.

Hapag-Lloyd’s Senior Director Sustainability, Jörg Erdmann, says the company has no plans to send ships through the Arctic shipping until it can guarantee safe passage of ships in the region.

“The particles produced by the combustion of carbon-based fossils and fuels contribute to global warming, which can in turn harm our ecosystems,” Erdmann said in a FAQ concerning Hapag-Lloyd’s plans for the Arctic. “As long as there are no guarantees that these passages can be navigated without negatively impacting the environment, using them is out of the question for Hapag-Lloyd, as well.”

Despite shrinking sea ice levels that have allowed an increase in the number of ships using the Northern Sea Route in recent years, Hapag-Lloyd said there is still a very limited window for containerships to navigate in the region.

“What’s more, since container ships operate in liner services, we must take a long and hard look at whether the time one might save from the shorter distances offered by using the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage would result in genuine economic benefits, especially when taking into account the draughts of larger ships or the fact that ships would likely need to have the appropriate ice classes,” Erdmann said.

In August, Hapag-Lloyd rival CMA CGM ruled out the Northern Sea Route for its fleet of more than 500 vessels despite the “major competitive advantage” the route represents for shipping companies. The French shipping giant cited threats that large ships pose to the environment and the delicate Arctic ecosystem in making its decision.

Maersk in September 2018 send one of its new Baltic feeder vessels, Venta Maersk, on a one-off passage of the Northern Sea Route on its voyage from Asia to Northern Europe.

Despite the success of the voyage, Maersk underscored that the passage was a one-off trial designed to gain operational experience in to region and to test vessel systems.

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