Cape diversions witness shipping emissions soar

  • January 29, 2024
  • News

In the past few months, the seaborne trading map between Asia and Europe has been significantly affected due to the intervention of Houthis in the ongoing war in Gaza. This event is hurting the carbon footprint of the shipping industry. According to a new report, shippers may experience an increase of more than five times in CO2 emissions per container shipped.

Ships of all types are increasingly choosing to travel via the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the risk of a Red Sea transit, where the Houthis from Yemen have attacked around 35 merchant ships with drones and missiles since November and also hijacked one car carrier.

According to the latest data from Clarksons Research, ship arrivals in the Gulf of Aden have decreased by 65% compared to 2023 levels, with recorded containership arrivals remaining at very low levels, down 90%, tanker arrivals down 45%, gas carrier arrivals down 90%, and bulker arrivals down around 30%.

Typically, boxships take 31 days to travel the 10,000 nautical miles between Shenzhen and Rotterdam on the traditional route via the Suez Canal. However, if the route is via southern Africa, the journey distance jumps to more than 13,000 nautical miles and takes at least 41 days.

A new study by Danish consultancy Sea-Intelligence has quantified the additional CO2 pollution on a per teu basis caused by longer sailing distances, increased speeds, and the likelihood of smaller ships being deployed on the alternative southern African route. The study suggests that CO2 emissions per teu could increase anywhere between 31 to 575%.

The longer journeys are also impacting a ship’s Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and the newly introduced EU Emission Trading Scheme.

Clarkson’s Research has also analyzed the overall changes in tonne-mile demand for 2024 due to the Red Sea shipping crisis. For instance, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent EU ban on Russian oil products led to a 5.5% uplift in product tanker tonne-mile demand.