CMA CGM rejects Arctic shipping route

CMA CGM rejects Arctic shipping route

CMA CGM says that although the Northern Sea Route has become navigable due to the melting of ice in the Arctic, the carrier won

CMA CGM Group said Friday it won’t use the Northern Sea Route connecting Asia to Europe through the Arctic in order to protect the fragile ecosystem there from the threat of accidents, oil pollution, and collisions with marine wildlife.

The global ocean carrier said its chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé would make the announcement in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday afternoon, ahead of the G7 meeting of world leaders in France from Saturday to Monday.

The Northern Sea Route, which runs the length of the Siberian coast, was formerly unnavigable, but its use has been made possible by global warming. Some sectors of the shipping industry see the opening of the route as an opportunity.

Russia said in the past that it is planning to develop a seaport and trade hub in its far eastern Kamchatka region to serve shipments on the Northern Sea Route. A year ago, a Maersk vessel loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics was the first container ship to navigate an Arctic sea route, according to Reuters, which has reported since that the carrier is looking to send more goods on the route.

Others have balked at the route, however. Otto Schacht, executive vice president of sea logistics for Kuehne + Nagel, said on his LinkedIn page last month the company would not support the route. 

“No one should support shipping goods from Asia to Europe via the Arctic,” he wrote. “Whoever considers it, supports global warming.”

Protecting the environment

CMA CGM said in a statement that Saadé has decided none of CMA CGM’s 500 vessels will use the route.

“Rich in its unique and largely unexplored biodiversity, the Arctic plays an essential role in regulating ocean currents and global climate patterns,” the carrier said. “The use of the Northern Sea Route will represent a significant danger to the unique natural ecosystems of this part of the world.” 

CMA CGM also said it would give priority to the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power its ships. LNG reduces sulfur emissions and fine particles by 99 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 85 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 percent, the carrier said.

CMA CGM has ordered nine LNG vessels that can carry up to 23,000 TEU, the first of which will be delivered next year. By 2020, it will have 20 LNG vessels in its fleet, the carrier said.

Contact Hugh R. Morley at Hugh.Morley@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @HughRMorley1.