MSC Rejects Northern Sea Route

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

October 17, 2019

Pic: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

Pic: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the world’s second-biggest container shipping line, has decided not to use the Arctic as a new short cut between northern Europe and Asia and will instead focus on improving environmental performance on existing global trade routes.

In declaring the northern sea route out of bounds, MSC follows CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd that have similarly eschewed the commercial benefits of an Asia-North Europe option that is 30 percent shorter than the southern route via the Suez Canal.

The Northern Sea Route lies entirely in Arctic waters and has been trialed by other shipping lines seeking to take advantage of melting ice from global warming.

“As a responsible company with a longstanding nautical heritage and passion for the sea, MSC finds the disappearance of Arctic ice to be profoundly disturbing. Every drop in the oceans is precious and our industry should focus its efforts on limiting environmental emissions and protecting the marine environment across existing trade routes,” said Diego Aponte, President & CEO, MSC Group.

A surge in container shipping traffic in the Arctic could damage air quality and endanger the biodiversity of untouched marine habitats – a risk MSC is not willing to take.

MSC’s decision to avoid the Northern Sea Route is complementary to the company’s broader strategic approach to sustainability.

To help tackle climate change, MSC completed a program to retrofit more than 250 ships in its existing fleet with the latest green technologies, cutting about 2 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

Furthermore, the latest newbuilding additions to the fleet – led by MSC Gülsün, the largest container ship in the world – has introduced a new class of sustainable container shipping, with the lowest carbon footprint by design, at 7.49 grams of CO2 emissions to move 1 ton of cargo 1 nautical mile.

MSC’s fleet improvement program has resulted in a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work  in 2015-18 and will help the container shipping industry make progress towards the United Nations International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2030 CO2 targets.

The company remains committed to adopting concrete plans to modernize its green and efficient fleet via the largest container shipping investment program in the industry.

“MSC is on a well-defined pathway to meet the 2030 IMO level of ambition for CO2 emissions intensity reduction. The great challenge which remains for container shipping this century is how to decarbonise and meet the UN IMO’s future emissions goals beyond 2030. While we are fully supporting these more distant targets, this will not be achievable without some major breakthroughs in fuel and propulsion technologies,” said Bud Darr, Executive Vice President, Maritime Policy & Government Affairs, MSC Group.

While recent improvements have depended largely on better-performing engines, more efficient propeller and rudder designs and technologies to reduce hull friction, MSC is actively studying the potential of new alternative fuel sources.

The company is engaging with potential vendors to investigate solutions related to biofuel blends, hydrogen fuel cells, complementary battery power and, potentially, wind and solar, as part of a long road of discovery in relation to future policy goals.

In its rejection of the Arctic option, MSC said in a statement it was convinced the 21 million containers it transports annually could be transported around the world without passing through the northern corridor.

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