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Green Eco-Friendly Ships Pay Off in International Shipping


Green Money Cargo Ship resized 600

One of the world’s prominent charterers – Cargill - announced that it will only be hiring “eco” ships with greater fuel efficiency according to a recent Hellenic Shipping article.[1] This is the result of significant improvements in various shipping practices to reduce their impact on the environment. The good news is that lowering international shipping’s impact on the environment is not just good for the planet, it is good for your wallet!

When “green” initiatives were first introduced to the shipping industry it was unclear whether or not running an environmentally low-impact vessel would be fiscally viable. In an industry that is known for the high-cost investment of capital required, the question was, “Is being green worth the cost?”  The answer, it seems is, “Yes!”

The primary investment for shippers who want to go green is in the ships themselves.  Lowering the environmental impact of international shipping can be achieved in two ways: by using only new ships built to “green” specifications or by using older ships that have been retrofitted to reduce their environmental footprint.[2]

Investors need to decide which of these two options best fits their needs (and their budgets) in a particularly dire economic climate where companies seeking to offload a glut of cargo ships have made the acquisition of older, less efficient ships temptingly cheap.

Taking the long view of the shipping industry however, has proven that greener, more efficient ships will result in huge savings in the long run. The primary way green ships (new or retrofitted) reduce their operation costs is by their greater fuel efficiency. Less fuel needed for long trans-oceanic voyages over many years of operation can result in tens of thousands of dollars saved in fuel costs. 

“Eco” ships are constructed to make better use of the fossil fuels that modern cargo ship’s engines run on, but this is by no means the only way shipping is becoming greener. Besides greater fuel efficiency, “improvement often stems from a combination of better hydrodynamics/hull form, economic low-speed main engines, bigger and more efficient propellers, slow steaming design points, and energy-saving appliances”.[3]

All these modifications together are making “Eco” cargo ships worth the higher initial investment as valuable and calculable savings are made over the long haul. The result is a greener international shipping industry and lower costs for consumers and import/export businessmen as the reduced fuel prices result in lower shipping costs.

While many “green” initiatives are expounded, not all can back-up their claims to being truly earth-friendly. We have all heard the debate about whether using paper bags really saves energy or reduces waste compared to plastic bags. Other eco-friendly solutions seem impractical, keeping “green” innovations from actually impacting the market in any significant way.

Fuel efficiency however is practical, legitimately “green”, and fiscally advantageous. Even ship owners who aren’t making ecofriendly technology a priority are motivated to invest in these more efficient ships because of the savings they provide.

It seems clear that being environmentally conscious is something consumers care about. Eco-friendly import/export shipping is therefore something carriers and charter companies need to be concerned about too. The reputation of the shipping industry because of disasters like the Exxon-Valdez oil spill or the Rena oil spill off the coast of New Zealand means we in the industry have a lot of ground to make up.  Thank goodness in this case being green also means saving money.

Click here to check out more blogs about green eco-friendly shipping from Universal Cargo Management.

[1] Hellenic Shipping News Fuel-efficient ships gaining market share as owners realize the potential they offer 10/6/12

[2] Hellenic Shipping News Fuel-efficient ships gaining market share as owners realize the potential they offer 10/6/12

[3] Hellenic Shipping News Fuel-efficient ships gaining market share as owners realize the potential they offer 10/6/12


Surely you can't mean that a likely million-plus dollar retrofit would result in savings of tens of thousands of dollars over many years. That is just not economically sound. Further- Exxon Valdez was a criminal act by a drunken captain. Not a good example of bad environmental policy.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 09, 2012 7:59 AM by Larry Goldstein
Certainly not all retrofits will be worth it. Many would be way beyond the cost savings created by better use of fossil fuels. Some ships will have to be retired, scrapped, etc, rather than updated. But when companies will only charter eco friendly ships and those ships cost much less to operate, it's going to be in the best of interest of carriers to have such ships making up their fleets. 
Exxon-Valdez is not an example of bad environmental policy. But when oil spills happen, they reflect poorly on the industry and have an effect on the public perception of ocean shipping.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 09, 2012 9:34 AM by Jared
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