Shippers call for urgent changes in liner CO2 reporting

Containerlines have been urged to adopt a common, internationally recognised way of calculating their CO2 emissions in the wake of a damning report from Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence that highlighted how divergent on data the current online CO2 calculators offered by liners really are.

Research from Sea-Intelligence published this week shows massive discrepancies in liners’ CO2 claims as well as their grasp of geography. The report showed shippers could reduce their CO2 footprint by 77% by switching from one carrier to another, even though the container would literally move on the same vessel as both carriers are part of the same alliance.

The misleading data has irked shippers keen to slash their carbon footprints.

James Hookham, secretary general of the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), told Splash that liners will need to be far more transparent and up to date with their carbon reporting.

“GSF believes 2020 is the year that the shipping industry will need make serious headway on its plans to achieve its GHG reduction targets. Adopting a common, internationally recognised calculation methodology would be a good start as you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Hookham said.

In Asia, meanwhile, an exasperated Sunny Ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, told Splash that current data from most liners on CO2 output per container was “close to useless”.

For liners using their own systems to create these maligned CO2 calculators the GSF has urged carriers to declare the methodology they are using and, if it’s their own in-house method, publish the underlying assumptions alongside the data.

“Ideally, use one of the standard carbon foot-printing tools available, for example the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) or similar,” GSF’s Hookham suggested.

Ten of the top 15 carriers provide an online CO2 calculator, but they were all branded “useless” by Sea-Intelligence.

“None can be validated,” Sea-Intelligence stated, adding: “They are riddled with absurdly poor data quality, sailing distances from China to New York range from 878 KM to 1.5 times around the world. One CO2 calculator has not been updated in at least 2.5 years. Avoid them all!”

The investigation is also an embarrassment to many of the world’s leading classification societies, who have certified these online calculators.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. You mean … it might be time to take the task of greenwashing away from the PR department?

    Let’s not be hasty…

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