Friday, March 4, 2011

Think Big

Chris Philips, Managing Editor

At press time, we received a media release from Mærsk Line, announcing that the world’s largest shipping company had just signed a contract for ten, 18,000-TEU container ships for delivery between 2013 and 2015, with an option for 20 more.

The ‘Triple-E’ class (Economy-of-scale, Energy-efficient and Environmentally-improved) vessels are designed to surpass current industry records for fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions per container moved – a record currently held by the Emma Mærsk-class vessels.

The new vessels, to measure 400 meters (1,300 feet) by 59 meters (193 feet) will operate in the Asia to Europe trade. The economy of scale delivered by the new ships will produce a projected 50 percent fewer CO2 emissions per container moved than the industry average.

Although the ships will be capable of 25 knots at full speed, the hull and propulsion systems are designed to profit from slow steaming, rendering fuel consumption benefits of 20 percent at 22.5 knots, 37 percent at 20 knots and 50 percent at 17.5 knots.

In 1973, Mærsk Line christened its first purpose-built container ship, the 1,800-TEU Svendborg Mærsk. The company now operates more than 550 vessels and has a capacity of 2.1 million TEUs.

In other news, the Associated Press (AP) has revealed the shocking news that, “Executives for a company seeking to build a major port to ship US coal to Asia had internal discussions as recently as December on a project that could handle 80 million tons of the fuel annually – about 15 times the volume disclosed publicly.”

Late last year, this space reported on the efforts of a well-funded coalition of radical environmentalists, led by enviro-attorney group Earthjustice, to impede the permitting and development of a coal terminal in Washington’s Cowlitz County.

In December, the group objected to the terminal on the grounds that, “…it would export pollution from US coal to Asia, where environmental laws generally are more lax.”

In the latest installment, AP reports that executives for the company seeking to export the coal ”…discussed equipment needed for a port capable of handling far more coal than the roughly 5 million tons a year mentioned in their initial application for the project.”

AP bases its story on emails obtained by the aforementioned radical group. The executive reached by AP points out that, while the company conducted extensive design and engineering work on a larger port, it has since shelved those plans, at least temporarily.

Earthjustice hopes to stop the development, according to the AP story, because, “…meeting the rising demand for coal in China, India and other developing nations could exacerbate climate change, because of the large volumes of carbon dioxide released when the fuel is burned.” In other words, Earthjustice is willing to interfere with the economic prosperity of China, India and other developing nations based on the shaky premise that burning coal is causing climate change. In clear opposition to free trade, the State of Washington has intervened on the side of the radical environmentalists.

A successful business must plan ahead and anticipate success. This sometimes involves investigating expansion options. For example, Mærsk Line, based in Denmark, is cutting steel for a series of ships that will be ten times larger than the one they christened in 1973. Surely the company anticipated success when it launched the 1,800-TEU Svendborg Mærsk, and it’s safe to assume the company had plans for larger ships when they built the first one. Fortunately for Mærsk, they’re not based in Washington State.