The 2020’s started out as going to be the decade in which going green was the only way forward for logistics companies. Decarbonisation and reducing the environmental impact of company’s supply chains looked like would feature as a major part in business plans.  Companies in the logistics sectors choosing to adopt a going green plan seem to have many advantages despite the additional expense.

Then we entered the Coronavirus crisis which has within a few months has change the world completely. It will be interesting to see if the long term Coronavirus impacts the sectors green credentials. If we enter a long world recession which may mean lower oil prices. This then has a knock on effect of reducing the demand for replacing internal combustion vehicles with zero emissions vehicles.  While the green reform momentum started in the previous decade at lease has credit a solid base and it may well mean that we have reached a tipping point that there is no going back to the old polluting ways. Already several shipping lines have decided to take advantage of the lower oil prices and transit from China to Europe via South Africa. While this is a longer route, the shipping lines can avoid having to pay Suez Cannel Fees. However this means much more emissions per voyage from the vessels but this is an example of economic benefits outweighing the environmental ones.

IKEA have publicly said they will not be shipping on any service which takes this route as it will impact the company’s public green credentials. All their cargo must be shipped on the shortest most efficient route into Europe to reduce their emissions. This is probably one of the first times that a large shipper has used environmental impact factors in their supply chain choices. While no other large shippers have taken any similar action, it does show that some companies regard how the public see their handling of their environmentally impact is important.

With governments around the world looking to stimulating their economies, green technology and green infrastructure projects are going to be ones which start to get much more attention and investment.  In Stallingborough, UK final planning permission has been given for the go ahead of a fuel production facility which uses household waste as its source material. The facility is being developed by a specialist company called Velocys, but has backing from industrial giants including Shell and British Airways. Despite planning permission being given it will be a least a further 2 years before construction starts and it is estimated the plant will not be online until the middle of the decade. However the fuel produced is planned to be used in both the airfreight and trucking industry helping to reduce their impact while reusing waste which would normally be buried in the ground.


March 2020 Department of Transport

March 2020 Department of Transport

March 2020 Department of Transport

Decarbonising Transport
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Setting the Challenge

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Decarbonising Transport Challenge
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Replacing high emission vehicles with zero emission ones

Replacing high emission vehicles with zero emission ones

Replacing high emission vehicles with zero emission ones

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Despite the Coronavirus  issues the UK issued a new report at the end of March the challenges on the “decarbonising transport” in order to get to the country to  a zero emissions  by 2050 across all modes of transportation. This report sets out how the government plans to engage with individuals, companies and other stakeholders through a series of workshops and public feedback sessions on  the decarbonising issues and the proposed government actions to address them.  The government additionally wants feedback on any other issues not mentioned but may have an impact the decarbonising strategy and what actions should be taken in order to address them. The final report currently is planned to be issued towards the end of 2020, though it may will be delayed now.

According to the report the transport sector overall is now the largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHG) since 2016. This is since energy sector in the past few years has dropped dramatically, while the transport sector has remain fairly static over the past 25 years. This does show one positive in that while emission have remained static the number of vehicles has increased considerable in this period. This will be down to the drive in the commercial sector for reduced pollution in the form of EUR engine standards, increased electrification of rail lines and an overall improvement in transport vehicle efficiency.

There transport decarbonising highlights six areas it wishes to address in order to achieve a nett zero transport system in the UK.

Future articles will deal with the current situation and detail planned steps on how the conversation will be taken forward. The full report from the Department of Transport Decarbonising Transport, Setting the Challenge can be downloaded here

This is another article in the series showing how the logistics sector is reducing its impact on the environment in which it operates. In 2019 the UK government launched its Clean Maritime Plan. This plan lays out how the government would like to tackle the issues of vessel emissions operating in UK waters.  The plan makes clear though that this is not just entirely a government scheme and will require good co-operation between the government ,private maritime industry sector and the educational sector. The UK government believes it pro-active approach to this issue will both encourage innovation and create many opportunities within the country.

The Clean Maritime Plan anticipates that by 2050 there will be many zero emission vessels operating within the UK territorial waters. This will require a significant investment by many vessel operators.  The plan sees this being achieved in steps between now and 2050.

By the end of 2020 the government had intend to take several steps to lay the ground work to enable the Clean Maritime Plan to be able to succeed. These included:

  1. Establishing the Maritime Emissions Regulation Advisory Service (MERAS) to give all stakeholders a place where they will be able to get support on the working towards the Clean Maritime Plan. It is also hoped by having an established regulatory body it will make the UK attractive to all developers of zero emissions around the world and encourage them to register the vessels under the United Kingdom flag.
  2. Consult on the possibility of amend the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. This applies to suppliers who supply over a certain amount of fuel and have to ensure that a percentage of this comes from renewable sources.
  3. Review and implement appropriate action after the Call for Evidence on Domestic Shipping and the ECA consultation.
  4. Aim to cut 50% of GHG emissions from international shipping by 2050

The UK government aims to kick start the innovation by providing seed funding for the establishment of MarRI-Uk and launching a government grant scheme for clean air maritime research projects. Finally establish a clean maritime award program to promote leaders in this field which will hopefully raise the entire sectors profile both industry wide and in the general public eye.

The current Coronavirus outbreak within in the UK and the rest of the world is causing major disruption and the long term impact may well have implications on when and how the government will be able to carry this plan out. However it does show that environmental action is constantly being taken to improve the world’s environment despite some denying nothing is being done.

Environmentalism is always now a hot political topic and it made its presence in effecting the 2020 UK Budget given by the Chancellor of Exchequer on the 11th of March. This particular budget had several significant changes which is going to impact logistics and its operations. One of the significant ones is the scrapping of red diesel subsidies for all industry sectors apart from farmers and rail operators. This will mean that equipment such as gencon sets used for moving reefer containers from the port to their delivery place will now have to use standard diesel. It will also mean temperature controlled trailer operators will also have to now use standard diesel. This is going to have a significant effect on pricing logistics companies will have to charge. This may well lead to the replacement of these generators with battery packs. However before this happens there is the issue of getting suitable charging points installed lorry parks so they can be plugged in while drivers take their required breaks. Lorry drivers are not going to be able just to pull up to an ordinary car charging point and use that.

A possible negative for the environment from the budget was the freezing of  fuel duty for the 10th year running. While some environmentalist’s felt this should have increased to help encourage the take up of alternative fuels, as diesel usage is a major contributor to logistics impact on the environment it operates in. However the situation with the economy at this time makes it probably not an option to do anything with. Additionally the change in attitude towards the use of electric vehicles and the environment in general means that this has overall less impact that what it may have had if this had been twenty years ago. Big commercial fleet operators are already starting to run out fleets of electric delivery vehicles in towns and cities around the UK. It is very unlikely that the freeze on duty is going to reduce these plans. Particularly as companies are very concern on how their green credentials are perceived.

The government has announced it is planning to support the use of electric vehicles by pledging a £500 million investment scheme in rolling out a network of charging points for plug-in vehicles. These charging points will be suitable for use by electric light goods vehicles such as transit vans. This will encourage businesses to adopt their use knowing that they are not going to have to spend time trying to track down a charging point. A Rapid Charging Fund is also going to be established to help small businesses install charging points at workplaces.

The government is going to have further investment in improving air quality. This will probably result in additional investment in road junctions which are particularly prone to  congestion. The investment will result in better flowing traffic, and less idling engines sitting in traffic queues. A win for the environment in less emissions being produced and transport operators benefit in saving fuel and quicker movements.

Our continuing articles on how the logistics industry is actively reducing its environmental impact. Despite some individuals and the media portraying that we are in climate emergency and no industry is attempting to help solve the problem this not an accurate picture.  One of the logistics organisations which has been leading environmental awareness is the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Way back in 1988 they introduced new rules regarding the disposal of waste at Sea. As of 2019 there where over 150 Countries signed up to the MARPOL Annex V waste regulations. These regulations are constantly being reviewed and updated. There have been 12 amendments with the last one coming into force in March 2018.

The rules regarding waste disposal applies to all vessels both passenger and cargo who have a gross tonnage of 100 or more and/or those who carry more than 15 people at any one time. The rules also apply to any fixed or floating platform in a sea or ocean. Vessels are required to have a management plan which should cover the following:

All ports in countries signed up to the waste regulations have to provide suitable waste disposal facilities for all sea going vessels. Some ports are now providing separate bins to encourage recycling.  Going beyond the current regulations are ports in a many developed countries banning waste wash water being dumped into the ports waters and they have to be taken away for proper treatment. This helps to keep the local environment much healthier.

Possibly one of the greatest threats the environment faces is not a changing climate but the growing issue of micro plastics entering the environment and the human food chain. While discharging waste plastic directly into the ocean is banned under the current regulations. There is still a significant amounts of plastic entering the ocean through lost equipment and other accidently releases. Both macro plastics (for example, large plastic items such as plastic bags, water bottles and fishing gear) and micro plastics (small plastic particles generally under five millimetres in size) are now found everywhere in the marine environment and  is having a harmful effect on marine life and biodiversity, as well as negative impacts on human health.

Unfortunately while the situation is improving, lack of awareness of the issue has been shown in studies resulting in discharges of plastics continuing into the worlds oceans which should have been properly disposed of. In order try and tackle this significant environmental threat the follow actions have been proposed by the IMO:

It is surprising that there is no current regulation to report and recover cargo which has been lost over board. Lost containers often float just on the surface and present a significant risk of damage to other ocean going vessels if they collide with them.  Considering this a weekly event often through bad weather and rough seas it is often left to the vessel owners, charterers or insurance companies to clean up the lost goods and equipment. Depending on the costs involved in the incident only the more responsible shipping operators take an active roll despite it can be seen as a positive PR move. It is certainly one area the industry should improve, with the results benefiting both maritime wildlife and ocean vessel operators.

With the exception of the Coronavirus outbreak, probably one of the biggest topics of the conversation in the world is the environment. While activists such as Greta Thunberg have being campaigning about the lack of action, the logistics sector has been getting on with reducing not only its carbon footprint but its overall impact. Organisations environmental awareness has resulted in more and more of them reviewing their processes and seeing if they can be made more sustainable. They have realised that this can actually have an effect on their profit/loss bottom line. Examples of this are companies reducing their packaging requirements or using products which will rapidly decompose rather than plastics. The increasing awareness of the environment has led to continuing improving polices from the various legislative bodies which oversee transport operations world wide. The international maritime organisation (IMO) has introduced various legislation to reduce the environmental impact of shipping on the world. Two of the major ones are ships’ waste and the low sulphur fuel regulations for vessels.

Tesla Electric Truck

The 2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions report showed that the transport sector in 2018 was responsible 33% of all CO2 emissions. The report did state that emissions had fallen by 9% since the 2007 peak, despite continued growth in the sector. Driven partly by the continued advancement of environment regulation, such as the EUR emission standards which commercial vehicles follow which is currently on EUR6 standard. It is expected in order for vehicles to comply with the EUR7 standard vehicle suppliers will need to have a hybrid or alternative clean engine. The EUR7 standard is to be introduced in the next few years

Distribution firms are actively purchasing zero emissions vehicles already for the last mile deliveries. The use of routings software is now common place to ensure the most efficient route is used when a vehicle is doing multiple deliveries and collections. As battery technology improves and falls in price within the next few years heavy goods vehicles will move over from being diesel to electric powered.