Hapag-Lloyd Won't Sail Container Ships Through the Arctic

file photo
file photo

Published Oct 7, 2019 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hapag-Lloyd has indicated it is not planning to sail container ships through the Arctic, following CMA CGM’s recent announcement that it would not sail the Northwest Passage for environmental reasons.

Jörg Erdmann, Senior Director Sustainability at Hapag-Lloyd, said in an interview published on the company's website: “Hapag-Lloyd does not use the Northwest Passage or the Northeast Passage as shipping routes right now, nor are there any plans to do so in the future. The particles produced by the combustion of carbon-based fossils and fuels contribute to global warming, which can in turn harm our ecosystems. As long as there are no guarantees that these passages can be navigated without negatively impacting the environment, using them is out of the question for Hapag-Lloyd, as well.”

He notes that the ice-free season for the Northeast Passage and the Northwest Passage is limited, making using it regularly difficult. “Since container ships operate in liner services, we must take a long and hard look at whether the time one might save from the shorter distances offered by using the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage would result in genuine economic benefits, especially when taking into account the drafts of larger ships or the fact that ships would likely need to have the appropriate ice classes.”

CMA CGM announced in August that it will not use the Northern Sea Route, citing environmental risk: “Rich in its unique and largely unexplored biodiversity, the Arctic plays an essential role in regulating ocean currents and global climate patterns. The use of the Northern Sea Route will represent a significant danger to the unique natural ecosystems of this part of the world, mainly due to the numerous threats posed by accidents, oil pollution or collisions with marine wildlife.”

The Northern Sea Route is opening up for shipping due to decreasing Arctic ice coverage, and its development is a major priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At present, the route is open without icebreaker escort for about three to four months of the year. It is not served by any transoceanic container services and is not presently considered competitive for this purpose, according to Maersk Line. Last year, Maersk tested the route for a delivery voyage and said that it did not plan to follow with regular cargoes. “Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a commercial alternative to our existing network, which is defined by our customers' demand, trading patterns and population centers.”