Marshall Chase, Associate Director, Advisory Services, BSR

While working with the Clean Cargo Working Group (CCWG) over the past three years, I’ve had the benefit of working with true believers. The members of the group—ocean container carriers, goods owners, and third-party logistics providers—all care greatly about the group’s mission to improve environmental performance in marine container transport and work hard for its success.

Last week, however, I participated in the Journal of Commerce’s Trans-Pacific Maritime (TPM) Conference, one of the signature events of the goods transport industry. I arrived unsure about how CCWG would be seen—would a group focused on standardizing metrics and environmental performance be relevant to attendees who represented goods owners, transport providers, and other business partners?

My answer came during the fourth slide of the opening plenary, when the CEO of the largest container shipping line in the world, Søren Skou of Maersk Line, presented data developed by the Clean Cargo Working Group. The slide highlighted a 25 percent improvement in Maersk Line emissions per container over the past five years and significant improvements in the industry as a whole. And Skou emphasized, “If you don't believe in global warming, believe in the numbers. By cutting CO2 per box 25 percent, Maersk saves US$1.6 billion in fuel costs.”

Environmental issues certainly weren’t the dominant theme of the conference. But they were touched on at least briefly in virtually every session I attended—whether discussing local air pollution around ports, the new North American Emissions Control Area, or highlighting ocean container transport as (until recently) “the last emitter” of air pollutants having little regulation.

Clean Cargo’s own session emphasized the need for standardized, understandable environmental metrics—which are the hallmark of the group. It also highlighted the growing importance of such metrics to leading shippers like Marks & Spencer and Electrolux, with the latter’s VP of Global Logistics Bjorn Vang Jensen stating that as of next year, 100 percent of the company’s carriers would have to report using Clean Cargo. And in conversations over coffee or dinner with other attendees, I found that while environmental issues were not as high on their list as they may be for Electrolux, they were actively giving them thought. Most shippers I spoke with, for example, said that environmental data collection was part of their ongoing interaction with carriers.

Clearly, economic, regulatory, and customer pressure are growing on the ocean shipping industry to improve environmental performance—and the industry is responding, as demonstrated by the regular improvements in CCWG data discussed at TPM.

For more info about BSR’s Clean Cargo Working Group, visit our web page or contact Marshall at mchase@bsr.org.