Container Ships Are Becoming More Eco-Friendly, But Is It Enough?

Container Ships Are Becoming More Eco-Friendly, But Is It Enough?

When it comes to the shipping industry, there has been a great deal of effort put forth to cut down on carbon emissions in recent years, and for good reason. If the world’s cargo ships were represented collectively as a country, it would be in the top 10 for highest emissions! However, the resulting lower emissions from these efforts have begun to reach a plateau, leaving leaders in the industry trying to determine how best to troubleshoot lack of accuracy in reported data and move forward with reaching future goals.

The Problem

One of the most prominent issues in lowering carbon emissions and increasing efficiency is a lack of accountability in the industry. Container ships only account for approximately 5.5 percent of merchant vessels worldwide, yet it is the only division that accurately reports its carbon emissions. In addition, efforts are being thwarted by a lack of innovation and technology which leaves the industry bound by the limits of the currently available technology.

Climate Regulations

In April, the International Maritime Organization committed to cut carbon emissions from shipping vessels by 50 percent by 2050. Additionally, industry goals were put in place as part of the historic Paris Climate Agreement. These efforts have led to many leaders in the industry making ecologically beneficial changes to their fleets.

What’s Being Done

One company in China has given their ships new propellers and changed the shapes of the bows to reduce drag, thereby reducing fuel usage. Another company in France has equipped their fleet with electric engines. These efforts have caused about a 37 percent drop in emissions from cargo ships from 2009 to 2017. While this is a great start, the progress has begun to wane in recent years.

Is It Enough?

In spite of the efforts to cut emissions, the levels are still far from the goals that have been set; partially due to a rise in container ship usage, and also due to limitations in the research and technology available. Another issue is a lack of accurate reporting and accountability by some in the industry.


Many leaders in the cargo shipping business are putting forth great effort to help meet crucial regulatory deadlines intended to curb greenhouse emissions. Unfortunately, inaccuracy and unaccountably in data reporting, along with technological limitations, and an increase in cargo shipping has slowed progress; leaving industry leaders wondering if these goals are attainable.

Davenport Laroche is a leading shipping container investment agency based out of Hong Kong.

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