Slow Trip Across Sea Aids Profit and Environment

February 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM Leave a comment

t took more than a month for the container ship Ebba Maersk to steam from Germany to Guangdong, China, where it unloaded cargo on a recent Friday — a week longer than it did two years ago.

But for the owner, the Danish shipping giant Maersk, that counts as progress.

In a global culture dominated by speed, from overnight package delivery to bullet trains to fast-cash withdrawals, the company has seized on a sales pitch that may startle some hard-driving corporate customers: Slow is better.

By halving its top cruising speed over the last two years, Maersk cut fuel consumption on major routes by as much as 30 percent, greatly reducing costs. But the company also achieved an equal cut in the ships’ emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The previous focus has been on ‘What will it cost?’ and ‘Get it to me as fast as possible,’ ” said Soren Stig Nielsen, Maersk’s director of environmental sustainability, who noted that the practice began in 2008, when oil prices jumped to $145 a barrel.

“But now there is a third dimension,” he said. “What’s the CO2 footprint?”

Traveling more slowly, he added, is “a great opportunity” to lower emissions “without a quantum leap in innovation.”

In what reads as a commentary on modern life, Maersk advises in its corporate client presentation, “Going at full throttle is economically and ecologically questionable.”

Transport emissions have soared in the past three decades as global trade has grown by leaps and bounds, especially long-haul shipments of goods from Asia. The container ship trade grew eightfold between 1985 and 2007.

The mantra was, “Need it now.” But the result is that planes, ships, cars and trucks all often travel at speeds far above maximum fuel efficiency.

Slowing down from high speeds reduces emissions because it reduces drag and friction as ships plow through the water.

That principle holds true in the air and on land. Planes could easily reduce emissions by slowing down 10 percent, for example, adding just five or six minutes to a flight between New York and Boston or Copenhagen and Brussels, said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency.

And simply driving at 55 instead of 65 miles per hour cuts carbon dioxide emissions of American cars by about 20 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. Yet many states are still raising speed limits, even as policy makers fret about dependence on foreign oil and emissions that heat the atmosphere.

“There’s a sense of urgency we’ve created — it’s always faster, faster, faster,” said Tim Castleman, founder of the Drive55 Conservation Project, a group in Sacramento that advocates the lower speed limit.

“I can drive 55 right now,” he said. “I believe it will make a profound difference.

Article Continues HERE

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Entry filed under: Conservation, Energy. Tags: , , , , , .

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