“The future of shipping is turning green”

You can't ignore the shipping industry when talking about a sustainable port. Not only because shipping transport plays a crucial role in the economic and operational operation of the port of Antwerp. But also because the greening of shipping is a source of inspiration for all logistics partners. How sustainable is the shipping industry? What will the future bring for this sector to protect the climate? Be inspired by a pioneer in organising sustainable initiatives in shipping: CMA CGM.

Introduction to shipping company CMA CGM

CMA CGM is a global shipping company headquartered in Marseille. The company is best known for its maritime services, but also has expertise in logistics and aviation. “Ship any type of goods, anywhere in the world” is its motto. But what makes CMA CGM so special is its sustainable approach. From the outset, the company has been committed to working as sustainably as possible. Especially when it comes to its core business: providing shipping and transport solutions. The shipping company distinguishes itself by making conscious, sustainable choices.

“All CMA CGM employees are proud to contribute to the sustainable initiatives set up by our CEO. That collective awareness makes our job relevant, we think,” says Maarten Voetelink, Director of ILS for CMA CGM Benelux.

Leading by example

At CMA CGM, Maarten is a visionary leader who is not only personally motivated to give the climate a boost, but also invariably stands behind his employer's innovative and climate-friendly DNA. Maarten Voetelink worked for more than 12 years for Vessel Operations and has risen to the position of Director of Intermodal Activities. As a member of the Board of Directors, he also assumes a coordinating role in developing sustainable operational initiatives.

Board members who advocate for sustainable shipping, a sustainable business and a sustainable corporate culture motivate our people. The employees are inspired and feel involved in a noble cause.

Maarten VoetelinkDirector ILS for CMA CGM Benelux

A sustainable principle

As a major shipping company, CMA CGM gave a clear signal in a coalition for new energy. The shipping company was the first major player to announce that they would never sail past the North Pole. With global warming and the melting of the ice caps as very real concerns, the decision was made quickly.

“All of us are working on the climate and how we can generate more renewable energy. Sailing past the North Pole is against our principles. Actually, the road is shorter, so you'd emit less, but the environmental risks are too great,” argues Maarten.

This decision was not an obvious one from an economic point of view. But shipping activities have a considerable impact on ecosystems in northern Russia and northern Scandinavia. “Sometimes it's more important to send signals than to stimulate economic growth,” says Maarten. “They're statements that show where we want to go at a higher level.”

“We don't label ourselves for ‘sustainability’ from a marketing point of view. No, we really believe in a better, sustainable world,” says Maarten. Achieving a better future requires tangible projects, such as the rise of LNG transport.

LNG transport

There are global guidelines for limiting CO2 emissions. As a sustainable player, CMA CGM is keen to comply with these rules. But what are the possibilities in shipping goods?

  • A normal cargo ship consumes a lot of fuel oil and is quite polluting. In addition to CO2, it also emits sulphur. Not a climate-friendly option.
  • It is possible to use low-sulphur fuel oil, but you will still be burning heavy fuel oil, which results in a lot of CO2 emissions.
  • Capturing sulphur is one option, but then what do you do with it?
  • Using LNG as a marine fuel is an alternative.

The added value of LNG

By cooling natural gas to -162° Celsius, you get a liquid with a volume 600 times smaller. As a result, LNG is easy, cheaper to ship and produces far fewer CO2 emissions.

CMA CGM also has accessible sources for refuelling LNG. International long-term agreements guarantee a sustainable supply of LNG. “There are currently 13 LNG vessels operating on long hauls. Taking into account the lifetime of ships that run on fossil fuel (approximately 20 years), we're slowly making the transition to sustainable shipping. We're also looking further into possibilities such as bio-marine fuel, so that ships powered by fossil fuel can also be cleaner.” – Maarten

In figures

  • LNG also provides 99% savings in sulphur emissions and a 91% reduction in nitrogen gases
  • 13 CMA/CGM LNG ships are operating (mainly between Asia, Europe and North America)
  • Another 27 LNG ships have been ordered
  • LNG ships emit 20% less CO2 than ships powered by fossil fuels
Reduction in nitrogen gases

In collaboration with Total

Total is an LNG pioneer with more than 50 years' experience. It is expanding the use of LNG as a transport fuel for trucks and ships. The economic and ecological gains compared to diesel and heating oil are considerable. CMA CGM joined forces with this LNG expert to take steps towards a more sustainable shipping company and therefore also towards more sustainable shipping.

“We make it very clear to our customers that you can transport completely green through CMA CGM. Before, during and after transport, we offer our customers solutions that are more sustainable.”

Ongoing research into a sustainable future

CMA CGM is conducting research into long-term solutions. “Some ecological solutions you can offer today, some not till next year, others not for another ten years. At a shipping company, we have to take into account the lifetime of the ships (20 to 30 years). The most important thing for us is to keep our finger on the pulse and keep investigating. Once we're ready to make the leap, we'll be well-prepared.”

Marine BioFuel test with GoodShipping and IKEA

The market is interested in green solutions today. There is also more awareness of who you can talk to about green solutions. CMA CGM is obviously on the radar in the transport sector. Ikea, for example, approached CMA CGM to test a Marine BioFuel.

During the trial, sustainable biofuel oil was used in a mixture with conventional marine fossil fuels to power a ship. The request yielded positive results, demonstrating the technical compatibility of sustainable marine biofuels.

Find out more?

The Energy Observer

Every day, the organisation asks itself the question: what else can we do? What further steps can we take? From that curious mindset came the idea to set up The Energy Observer as a project. The water-driven vessel is closely monitored by Research and Development. The outcome of this project could have an enormous positive impact on the climate.

Energy Observer moored in front of Port House

Research into hydrogen as a potential energy carrier is also underway, but for the time being there are no breakthroughs for supplying the shipping industry with huge amounts of green energy.

Every initiative makes a difference

Neighbourhood clean-ups

Maarten takes matters into his own hands on a regular basis. Along with a few enthusiasts, he will set out on a course through the port of Antwerp to clean up litter in the surroundings.

“Sustainability shouldn't be an obligation,” says Maarten. “A neighbourhood clean-up is one such example. Several people at CMA CGM just stepped up to the mark and let other colleagues know that we would be doing some cleaning up in the area that afternoon. In no time at all, we'd convinced even more green ambassadors to join us. That gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

That deserves a pat on the back too!