Xeneta: CEI improved on majority of top container trades in Q1

The first quarter of 2023 saw Carbon Emissions Index (CEI) improvements on the majority of top 13 container trades, evaluated by Xeneta, an Oslo-based ocean and air freight rate benchmarking and market analytics platform.

Illustration; Image by Yang Ming

The average CO2 emitted per ton of cargo carried fell on ten of the world’s leading trades compared to Q4 2022, according to the latest review from the platform.

The biggest quarterly CEI ‘winner’ was the US West Coast to the Far East trade, where an 11.3% fall from Q4 2022 brought the score down to 88.0 points, the analysis said. The decrease was assigned to the growth in average size of ships deployed on this trade, while the filling factor stayed stable, and the average speed decreased by almost 1 knot.

The three trades that recorded an increase in average CO2 emissions, and therefore an increase in CEI, were North Europe to the Far East and to the US East Coast, and from the Mediterranean to the US East Coast.

As carriers deal with overcapacity, several alliances have added capacity to services and slowed down the speeds of deployed ships. By doing so they can avoid these extra vessels adding to the actual capacity offered.

In fact, there are only three trades that have a faster average sailing speed in Q1 2023 than they did in Q1 2022. These are all fronthaul trades; two from the Far East to North Europe and to the US East Coast, and from North Europe to the US East Coast. The biggest drop in average speed compared to a year ago was registered from North Europe to the South American East Coast, where it was down by 17.6%, moving from 17.3 knots in Q1 2022 to 14.3 knots in Q1 2023.

The filling factor has also stabilized across the top 13 trades over the first quarter of the year. Between Q3 2022 and Q4 2022 the average filling factor fell by 3.5 percentage points, with only three trades avoiding a drop, whereas in Q1 2023 the average drop in filling factor was down to one percentage point.

In contrast to the previous quarter, all trades out of the Far East saw a slight increase in their filling factor, up by between 0.1 percentage points (to the South American East Coast) and 5.3 percentage points (to North Europe).

Trades out of North Europe saw the biggest drops in filling factor, with the steepest decline coming on the North Europe to US East Coast trade, which fell by 8.8%, Xeeneta’s data shows.

Yang Ming takes emissions crown

Based on Xeneta’s analysis, in Q1 2023, Yang Ming was the carrier that held the top spot on the greatest number of the top thirteen trades. It was the cleanest carrier (when measured by CO2 emitted per ton of cargo carried) on three trades, with OOCL and HMM securing the top spot on two trades a piece.

Yang Ming was the only major carrier to score below the trade lane average on all the trades where it deployed ships, with CEIs ranging from 58.3 to 80.4 points. Yang Ming also deployed younger ships than the trade lane averages and, importantly, sailed slower.

With the exception of the Far East to the South American East Coast, where Yang Ming sailed 0.6 knots faster than the trade lane average, Yang Ming’s ships were between 0.9 and 3.2 knots slower than competing carriers on the other major trades.

Operational decisions can have major impacts on environmental performance

While some carriers like Yang Ming consistently outperform the trade lane average on all the trades where they operate, others have much larger variations in their CEI scores. A clear example of this is CMA CGM, which had ships deployed on all the top 13 trades in Q1 2023. On eleven of these, CMA CGM’s CEI score was below the trade lane average, by between 2% and 15.2%. However, on the two trades where CMA CGM scored higher than the average there was a noticeable disparity.

For example, from North Europe to the South American East Coast CMA CGM scored a CEI of 189.5, an eye-catching 85.9% worse than the trade lane average. This can be explained by the fact that the carrier deploys much smaller ships on this trade, with an average capacity of just 2 200 TEU, compared to average vessel sizes of at least 7 000 TEU on other major trades.

“In this respect, we can see how operational decisions concerning fleet deployment can have huge consequences for a carrier’s environmental performance on different trades. Shippers looking to address the carbon footprints of their own logistics chains should be aware of these factors when choosing where to allocate their volumes on individual trades,” Xeneta said.