Go-slow is the way forward for shipping

12 May 2010

12 May 2010 | Andy Allen

The adoption of “slow steaming” by some shipping operators in response to the global recession has proved so successful it is likely to continue even once recovery is fully under way.

“The recession has resulted in the shipping industry having redundant capacity,” says Paul Luen, CEO of Martek Marine, a manufacturer of engine emission monitoring systems for the marine industry.

“Rather than mothballing part of their fleets, companies like Maersk and the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company have opted for slowing the ships down, which saves on fuel consumption and can reduce emissions by as much as 30 per cent.”

Luen believes the experience of these “early adopters” has proved so successful the trend is likely to enjoy greater take-up even after a global economic recovery.

“Slow steaming had not been instigated before because shippers were worried that customers would not tolerate longer transit times and insurance companies were concerned that slower speeds might damage marine engines,” said Luen.

He cited a study by Maersk, however, that showed speeds can be halved without causing damage or increasing maintenance costs and that customers have proved willing to accept slower journey times.

Concepts such as just-in-time logistics are compatible with slow steaming, said Luen. “It’s simply that instead of planning for a 20-day voyage you would plan for a 30-day voyage,” he added.

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