Cooperating to reduce maritime emissions

Interest in low-carbon maritime freight is surging, says Matti-Mikael Koskinen from ESL Shipping. The company’s long-term partnership with Metsä Group offers the opportunity to invest in low-emission vehicles.
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  • 2023, Markets and trends, Pulp

Matti-Mikael Koskinen, Managing Director of ESL Shipping, is at the helm of one of the leading dry bulk shipping companies operating in the Baltic Sea. It is an excellent vantage point for following developments in international maritime transport.

A shipping industry veteran with two decades of experience in the field highlights one trend in particular. Especially in Northern Europe, there is strongly growing interest in environmentally friendly maritime transports with carbon emissions that are as low as possible.

“We want to be among the frontrunners in sustainable maritime transport and we plan to reduce our emissions by 50 per cent per transport unit by 2030. We aim for fully carbon neutral operations by 2050,” he explains.

Common vision for reducing emissions

Koskinen points out that close and long-term cooperation with customers is required to reduce maritime emissions.

A good example of this is the partnership between ESL Shipping and Metsä Group, which has lasted for many years. The shipping company transports pulp, sawn timber and other wood products to European ports and wood raw material to Metsä Group’s production plants.

“Both companies have a clear vision for reducing environmental impacts. To cut emissions, we must invest in an increasingly environmentally friendly fleet. This, in turn, calls for a partner committed to long-term cooperation.”

The most efficient vessels in their size category

AtoB@C Shipping, a Swedish subsidiary of ESL Shipping, has placed an order for seven new vessels. Their greenhouse gas emissions will be nearly 50 per cent less per cargo unit transported than those of vessels currently in use.

The Green Coaster vessels to be introduced in 2023–2024 are energy-efficient electric hybrid vessels with battery packs and shore-side electricity solutions that enable completely emission-free and noiseless port calls. They can arrive and leave the port running on electric power alone.

The vessels are the world’s most efficient in their class. They have a deadweight capacity of 5,350 tonnes, a length of 90 metres, a beam of 16 metres and a draft of 6 metres.

“In addition to being energy-efficient, the vessels have been designed to transport increasingly large cargoes.”

Koskinen says pulp can be transported more efficiently because the cargo holds are considerably larger in relation to the deadweight capacity than in older vessels. This means that the entire loading capacity of the vessels can be used when loading high bales of pulp.

Energy efficiency is a part of designing

The total value of the vessel order is around EUR 70 million. Koskinen explains that the order can be expanded with several optional vessels in the future.

“This investment will boost ESL Shipping’s competitiveness and future growth as an industrial partner. With these new vessels, we are also preparing for an increase in Metsä Fibre’s production volumes, following the new Rauma sawmill and the completion of Kemi bioproduct mill next year.”

The ice class of ESL Shipping’s new vessels is 1A, meaning that they can operate in difficult ice conditions with icebreaker escort. This is necessary to ensure transport operations and security of supply in northern waters.

“The most challenging part in designing the new vessels comes from the need to ensure high energy efficiency in addition to a high ice class.”

Good design offers cost savings

Thanks to the close partnership with Metsä Group, overall logistics can be planned together. By combining import and export transports, savings can be achieved in time, energy, and costs for both companies.

Alongside his daily duties, the shipping company’s managing director keeps close tabs on technological developments related to maritime transport.

To achieve carbon neutral transports in the future, it is essential to replace the diesel fuels currently in use with non-fossil fuels.

Reductions in maritime emissions call for industrial scale production of renewable fuels, Koskinen says. At present, the availability of such fuels is very limited.

“Biofuels obtained from forest industry side streams can be one solution.”

In terms of emissions in relation to the volumes of cargo carried, maritime transports are already an environmentally friendly option compared to other modes of transport.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the carbon dioxide emissions of a cargo ship total 7.9 grams per tonne-kilometre, compared to 80 grams for lorries and 435 grams for air cargo.

Continuous improvement is something that motivates Koskinen in his job.

“I want to design my work so that we develop with the customer and jointly create new things.”

This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2022–2023.