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. 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.
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”.
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 eco-friendly 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.
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