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Seaports and ocean carriers pursue sustainable goals

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
November 09, 2010

Ocean carriers and ports are not often given the chance to share the stage when it comes to articulating a common strategy.  Even when pursuing a similar goal, the tactics can be at cross purposes. Yet, “Beyond the Factory Gates: Extending Sustainability into the Logistics and Transportation Sector,” proved to be one of the more compelling panel discussions at last week’s BSR conference in New York.

“The logistics and transportation sector can be a valuable partner for global retailers and manufactures looking to maintain and extend sustainability into their supply chains,” said Raj Sapru, director, advisory services for BSR.

He also noted that a fair amount of collaboration would be needed in the future to counter public perception: “Containerized shipping is still beneath the radar for a lot of consumers.”

Jacob A. Sterling, head of climate and environment sustainability for Maersk Line, agreed, observing many of the advances in transport technology have yet to be properly recognized.

“Consumers see their goods arriving at the retailers in trucks and fail to consider how complex the supply chain really is,” he said. “Meanwhile 3 percent of global GNP is moving on one of our vessels on any given day.”

And moving at a slower, more sustainable pace, he added.

Maersk was one of the first carriers to introduce “slow steaming” a few years ago, and it has since become a common practice among all modern fleets. But not without some sacrifice.

“Initially, moving at a reduced knot speed took its toll on some ship engines,” said Sterling. “But Maersk learned how to reengineer around this problem, and we shared this technology with the carrier industry. Now 50 percent of the world’s vessel operators have reduced emissions by reducing velocity.”

What’s more, this has made had a positive impact for the Port of Seattle, said Linda Styrk, its managing director.

“Because we are closer to Asia than any other U.S. port, Seattle has benefitted by attracting new business,” she said. Now billing itself as “The Green Gateway,” Seattle is promoting shorter ocean transit times and lower fuel consumption.

In May of last year, the port released the results of a study revealing that Puget Sound ports offer the lowest carbon footprint for cargo shipped by sea from Asia to major markets in the Midwest and East Coast, said Styrk.

“This is a competitive advantage that we believe will attract higher cargo volumes through our load center,” she added. “And, it’s an environmental advantage because those same shipments require less fuel, and therefore lower greenhouse gas emissions, from point to point.”

About the Author

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Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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