“We are one of the leading global logistics players when it comes to turning our industry green, and we vigorously aim to continuously expand this position.” A commitment delivered by CEO, Jochen Thewes of DB Schenker, voiced at his company’s Sustainable Logistics Forum. The event was held in Berlin on 01JUN22, and was attended by 150 customers, including selected journalists. The five-hour-long gathering produced stunning impulses from high-ranking leaders of the air, ocean, and trucking industry along with telecommunication experts and market analysts.
For instance, by Claire Martin, VP Sustainability of French shipping line, CMA CGM. She pointed out that the transition from traditional fuel to biofuel, SAF, or even hydrogen to power vessels or
aircraft, is the greatest challenge the industry is currently facing. There are many successful approaches, but “we need to do more and do it faster to achieve the climate goals,” she
urged, referring to the EU's ambitious CO2 targets. “We, as CMA CGM, decided to purchase large amounts of biofuel from producers in advance, to accelerate the production. So, we have
deliberately shouldered the financial risk,” she stated.
A similar approach to push eco-friendly energy supplies up front is DB Schenker’s support of a Lufthansa Cargo B777F, powered by SAF and operating once a week between Frankfurt and Shanghai, since last October. “We massively support this project, but so far it does not pay off,” resumes Mr. Thewes.
At its Berlin event, the agent announced the first results of its strategy to decarbonize road freight transports. DB Schenker’s management confirmed that electrically powered trucks have already completed more than 1.5 million kilometers, serving its European land transport network. Its urban delivery fleet will be entirely electric by 2030, states the company.
More are jumping on the (sustainability) bandwagon
Other players have also increased their efforts with growing intensity, shown by IAG Cargo which inked a SAF partnership with Kuehne+Nagel to reduce emissions. On 01JAN22, Air France introduced a compulsory SAF admixture percentage. Within Europe, there is a proposal to achieve a compulsory SAF proportion of 2% by 2025 for all flights within the block and departing from airports in the EU.
However, how quickly alternative fuels become available is not just a question of goodwill on the part of pioneers such as DB Schenker, Kuehne Nagel, Lufthansa Cargo, IAG Cargo, or AF-KLM, but also a cost matter. This was also clearly articulated at the Berlin meeting.
Public pressure mounts
“The price difference between fossil kerosene and Sustainable Aviation Fuel is still in the range of 3:1, but we believe that our actions and that of others will set precedents and motivate a growing number of actors to follow suit,” stated Mr. Thewes. Here, he said a big point, because those who fail to turn their logistics processes from dirty to clean in time, will pay an ever-increasing price for energy consumption in the coming years due to stricter legal regulations. Okay, doing so requires courage and out of the box-thinking, but it pays off in the end because public pressure is rapidly growing. Just minutes after the DB Schenker Forum ended, Greenpeace aired a release, accusing airlines of widespread inaction or at least insufficient efforts in climate protection. “The aviation industry is hiding behind meaningless promises and a curtain of greenwashing when it comes to climate protection,” Herwig Schuster, spokesman for the organization, claims.
Presumably, none of the managers attending the DB Schenker event would have supported this sweeping criticism. It disregards the many efforts of the industry to achieve an ecological turnaround and to lead the debate out of the claiming and blaming impasse. The consensus among the participants was that taking the lead, creating positive examples, and communicating them very transparently, might not be the one-approach-fits-all solution but it is a promising beginning, achieving benchmark status and thereby bringing about multiple learning effects
However, climate change is fast progressing, so time is running out. Therefore, the question is how to convince more shipping lines, trucking companies, and cargo carriers to jump on the ecological bandwagon and commit to greener solutions. Once a few brave ones go ahead, the others usually follow, Claire Martin said. She referred to studies, documenting that 10% of an organization’s staff supporting the transition from CO2 emitting fuel to SAF or other clean alternatives, suffices to implement change successfully since all others will follow.
She thus brought important points to the table: transparency and collective effort. What is needed are clusters consisting of producers, suppliers, transporters, and a plethora of service providers involved in a supply chain, she urged.
Soeren Toft, CEO of the shipping line, MSC, referred to this approach based on the motto: the individual is good, but many are better. “The task we are facing can only be achieved in partnerships and must include fuel providers such as Shell, Schenker, and other agents, the producers of goods, and should also focus on retrofitting existing assets, enabling them to burn less fuel.” Further to this, the executive said that constant data transmission is of high importance, since water currents, wind and other parameters influence the steaming of a vessel, affecting its fuel burn. Mr. Toft also advocated a global Research & Development Fund financed by the shipping industry, as driver of innovation and developer of new solutions. He then addressed the issue of fuel costs. Even if these were to increase by $300 per container and voyage, for example, through the introduction of biofuel or methanol, they would be bearable for the economy. “That’s not the end of the world.”
The supply / demand gap needs to be closed - fast
Currently, there are roughly 250,000 tons of green methanol available on the world market. “An amount that suffices to power up to four of our large vessels,” Mr. Toft said. However, MSC has 650 ships in its fleet. The airline industry faces a similar supply problem. “The current amount of SAF is just enough to power the fleets of all airlines for a single week,” stated Achim Martinka, VP Germany at Lufthansa Cargo. These huge discrepancies between supply and demand illustrate the most pressing issue in decarbonization: The production of green fuels in sufficient quantities is the key to rapidly reducing those greenhouse gas emissions warming the globe year after year.
Finally, CFG addressed CEO, Jochen Thewes, asking him about ongoing rumors that Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Schenker is for sale, or at least bringing a financial investor on board. “Ask me again in the fall,” noted the executive.
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users.