Apple Cuts Emissions From Transport by 95 Percent Using Normal Ships

Container ship

Published Sep 22, 2023 3:52 AM by The Maritime Executive

More than a few leading shippers advertise their support for shipping's green transition. Amazon has a well-publicized partnership with Maersk to use biofuel and methanol to power some of its cargo movements; Ikea has pledged to buy only zero-emissions bunkers after 2040; and mining giant Fortescue is investing heavily in ammonia fuel technology. Apple, the world's largest company, is taking a different route to establishing its green credentials: it is transporting more cargo aboard conventional ships.

In a new mini-movie ad spot, the personification of "Mother Nature" (actress Octavia Spencer) arrives to grill Apple's leadership team on their progress on their sustainability pledges. After running down the list of green product materials and energy usage policies, they turn to logistics. 

"I'm proud to report that we're shipping more products by ocean rather than air, which reduces transportation emissions by 95 percent," an actor portraying Apple's logistics chief proudly says. (In the video, Mother Nature's assistant responds approvingly.) 

Apple's logistics model is famously heavy on just-in-time air freight, which allows the firm to maintain minimal inventory. In quarters with a big product launch, airborne iPhones can account for two percent of all transpacific airfreight volume, according to logistics firm Flexport.

Switching from air freight to ocean-going shipping yields an immediate carbon footprint reduction, even without using a green bunker fuel for the ship. The shipping industry has emphasized this inherent advantage for a long time. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, an 18,000 TEU boxship emits less than one percent of the carbon of an air freighter per tonne-mile. 

Moving products by efficient ocean-going transport is a major step, but there is still a ways to go, according to the nonprofit Ship it Zero campaign. Apple wants to reach net-zero carbon by 2030 - and shipping by container ship only gets its transport emissions most of the way there. 

"Shifting their goods to maritime shipping is not necessarily a meaningful pathway to carbon neutrality. We need Apple to work with their ocean cargo provider now to move to zero-emission ships rather than rely on carbon offsets which don’t solve the climate crisis," said Eric Leveridge, Ship It Zero Lead at Pacific Environment.