“Knock on Wood” – We Can Have an Even Lower Impact!
By Jacob Sterling, Head of Environment & CSR, Maersk Line
Container shipping is a business of steel and oil: Steel to build ships and containers, and oil to fuel the ships. Clearly, the use of wood in shipping was dropped when we abandoned wooden ships, or was it?
When we talk to our customers, NGOs or others concerned about the environmental impacts of shipping, they are mostly concerned about CO2. And rightly so - even though shipping is the most efficient mode of transportation the total impacts are significant, and the choice of shipping line can greatly influence the CO2 emitted during the transport of the goods.
So what's with the wood? What most people don't realise is the fact that most shipping containers carry the cargo on a wooden floor. And most often the wood comes from tropical rainforests. We estimate that approx 1.5 million containers are produced every year, using some 750,000 cubic meter of tropical wood as floorboards. This may be a problem because many tropical forests are being illegally logged and destroyed.
In 2010, we decided that all new containers should be fitted with either bamboo or sustainable FSC certified wood. This way we hope not to contribute to illegal logging. By now more than 30 percent of all our containers are fitted with sustainable container floors.
Not all shipping lines have adopted the same kind of policies for container floors. What's needed is for customers of container shipping to start demanding clear policies. Many big companies have made bold commitments to ensure their products are made from sustainable wood. By extending this commitment to their transportation suppliers, their positive impact can be multiplied, and they can avoid that their sustainable wood products are transported on a floor made of freshly cut rainforest.