Sustainable options growing for ocean shipping

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by Emily Atkins

It’s no secret that the transportation sector is a huge emitter of the greenhouse gases that are contributing to the rapid advancement of climate change. In Canada the sector accounts for 27 percent of GHG emissions.

From cargo planes, to container ships, trains and the trucks on our roads, more than 90 percent of the fuel used is carbon-based. Not only is the extraction of petroleum products unsustainable, burning them has an even more immediate impact on our environment.

Climate change related to CO2 emissions is rapidly impacting transportation operations. The flooding in British Columbia last year that wiped out most of the road and rail transport links in the province’s Lower Mainland is just one climate-related example. In the future, ports will be at risk from rising ocean levels, while the potential for further devastating weather events just keeps escalating.

With growing awareness of the problem’s scope comes increasing pressure from regulators, investors and consumers to take action. Transport suppliers in all modes are taking heed. Some actions respond to regulatory changes and global pacts like the Paris Agreement, while others are more directly related to the cost of doing business. When customers and investors start making procurement contingent on the sustainability actions carriers are taking, the stakes are suddenly much higher.

In this four-part feature we look at a sample of sustainability initiatives in the different modes of transport to highlight some of the actions the sector is taking to improve its track record.

The bigger picture

Not content with measures to reduce its carbon footprint, CMA CGM Group will no longer transport plastic waste aboard its ships.

As of June 1, 2022, the ocean carrier will stop accepting shipments that contain plastic waste. This measure will help CMA CGM prevent this type of waste from being exported to destinations where sorting, recycling or recovery cannot be assured.

Every year, around 10 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the sea. Unless action is taken, that figure is set to triple over the next 20 years to reach 29 million tons per year, which will cause irreversible damage to marine ecosystems, fauna and flora.

The causes of this pollution include open-air storage and the absence of processing infrastructure for plastic waste that does not actively get recycled or reused.

The company decided to take practical steps where it has the operational capability to do so, heeding the urgent calls made by environmental organizations.

Since 2008, the group has lowered its CO2 emissions per container-kilometre by 49 percent. In addition, CMA CGM has pledged that alternative fuels will cover at least 10 percent of its consumption by 2023. Its overall goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

By the end of 2022, the company will operate 32 LNG-powered vessels, and was a pioneer in the use of biofuel made from 20 percent recycled vegetable oil.