Why Improved Shipping Containers Will Have a Bigger Impact on Emissions Than Better Ship Designs

Written by George Kochanowski, CEO and Richard Danderline, CFO, from Staxxon.

As is widely known, 90% of the world’s trade is transported via the oceans in steel containers. With many in the world focused on the perceived impacts of climate change, the shipping industry is under increasing pressure to reduce the emissions created by the world’s merchant fleet, all looking to cut into the 140 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually emitted into the atmosphere.

Improved fuel efficiency and ship design – but fossil fuels remain a major issue in shipping

The world’s ocean carriers have invested millions of research dollars which have yielded significant improvements in fuel efficiency and optimized ship designs. What has not emerged from their efforts is a clear choice to replace fossil fuels with alternate fuels that reduce greenhouse gases with carbon neutral or green fuels.

Some of the world’s leading carriers  have already ordered new ships that incorporate many of these changes with some coming online this year while retiring older generation of ships. Interestingly however, this addition of 30% new capacity over the next three years comes at a time when 24% of the current sailings are being blanked due to the weak global economy. But this new capacity is most assuredly better for the environment  than the ships they are replacing.

Notwithstanding the significant amounts of emissions, the ocean shipping industry itself is but a minor contributor to the total amount of atmospheric emissions when compared to on-road trucks, shipping products by air, or power generating stations.  The emissions  produced from the current generation of ships are acknowledged as the most efficient form of intermodal transport when calculated by ton per mile traveled. Regardless, due to its global reach and immense scale, the total greenhouse gases emitted  is approximately  3% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Impact of emissions at Terminals and ‘last mile’ have huge impact on carbon footprint

With that perspective, we see that goods are transported in containers by the most efficient way presently available, over significant distances with the minimum exposure to people – out at sea, only to be delivered by trucks for the “last mile” that emit significantly more greenhouse gases per mile than an ocean carrier.

Furthermore, these containers were offloaded, moved, stored, and handled again and again by even more inefficient, fossil fueled vehicles. The process is then repeated when these containers are returned  to shipping terminals, the vast majority of which in Europe and the US,  are empty. These actions, unfortunately, are not conducted out at sea but in densely populated cities.

Introducing greener ships with greener  fuels, unfortunately does nothing to relieve the impact of emissions at the terminals and their surrounding communities – caused by container handling, storage and truck traffic once at port.

Potential Carbon Reduction from New Folding Container Technology

It is here that Staxxon’s new folding container technology can have a significant impact. Staxxon has developed folding technology that allows the ISO standardized steel box to be folded, standing upright, and bundled upright into sets of 2, 3, 4, or even 5 empty containers. These bundled sets move as if they were just the normal box; stacked on a ship in the same way as a conventional container, using all the equipment currently in use to move, stack, transport or lift ISO containers.

This optimization will have a significant positive effect that ripples throughout the entire supply chain including:

  • Delivering 2,3,4, or 5 bundled empties to the terminals using one truck on one chassis can reduce truck emissions by up to 80%
  • Storing 2,3,4, or 5 bundled empties in the space of one container at ground level instead of creating a stack of 5 individual containers
  • Loading a ship in less time allows the ship to leave port sooner and slow steam – cutting a ship’s speed by 10% can reduce fuel consumption by over 15%, further reducing GHG emissions

During the pandemic, major carriers sent empty vessels to pick up ONLY empty containers that had accumulated at the ports. One ship could have picked up 5 times as many boxes had they been using bundled Staxxon folding containers.

Again, during the pandemic, port congestion was a major problem and a cause for great concern. Basically, ports had a massive amount of empties cluttering their storage yards significantly increasing the time needed to load and unload a ship, resulting in an unprecedented queue of ships waiting to dock.

Staxxon’s folding containers would have eliminated most of the port congestion problem if the bundles had just 2 or 3 empties.

Simply stated,  Staxxon folding containers provide a faster, cheaper, and cleaner means to handle the problem of repositioning empty containers and in doing so can make the intermodal shipping industry greener.

To learn more, visit https://staxxon.com/