Acciaro, Michele and Alan C. McKinnon

Carbon emissions from container shipping: An analysis of new empirical evidence

International Journal of Transport Economics, 42 (2): 228-211, (2015).

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Abstract: In the last decade researchers have been looking at ways of reducing the carbon intensity of shipping operations that globally account for approximately 3 % of world carbon emissions. As a result of regulation and firms’ efforts to innovate, the maritime sector has introduced new technologies and practices such as slow steaming which have contributed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. The impact of technological and operational developments on global GHG emissions is difficult to assess, however, without empirical evidence. So far such evidence has been only partially available and most of the data sources used in the literature have been compiled for different purposes or are based on single firm case studies. This paper reports the results of an analysis of a fuel consumption database compiled by the BSR Clean Cargo Working Group (CCWG) with the specific purpose of benchmarking and collecting emission data and comprising 2,300 container ship voyages (reporting year 2013, data for 2012). This analysis has examined the effect of technical and operational parameters on these vessels’ fuel consumption and emissions and is the first to be performed on the dataset and in general on self-reported data across multiple companies. In 2012, carriers in the CCWG accounted for approximately 65% of total world deep-sea container traffic. The paper outlines an econometric model that regresses carbon emissions from container shipping on particular trade routes against a range of independent variables, such as vessel age, size and average speed. The paper results indicate that significant differences exist among carriers both in terms of energy efficiency and carbon intensity. The analysis also suggests that while the emission profiles of some trade routes have remained relatively stable in recent years, others have witnessed an increase in emissions mainly as a result of a concentration of container flows. By improving our understanding of the determinants of carbon emissions from container shipping, this research should help shipping lines develop carbon-reduction plans and governments to devise appropriate policies to incentivise the decarbonisation of the maritime sector.

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