Issue: Apr 2016


Reducing the environmental impact of vehicle shipping  



by Michael Stewart

One of the world’s largest shipping lines is helping the motor industry to reduce its total environmental impact by reducing emissions in the logistics chain.

Shipping major Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has formed the MOL Auto Carrier Express (MOL ACE) division which will be spearheading a global move towards more environmentally friendly shipping of cars. “The MOL ACE brand recalls MOL’s long history of vessels with Ace in the name, reflecting decades of innovation in environmental concern and higher levels of safety and technology. The global brand established today embodies the company’s determination to build on these traditions as it continues to grow in the global market. MOL will market its car carrier services making a full use of its global network under the MOL ACE brand, built on the themes of safety and reliability, and continue to meet ever more diverse customer needs,” says the company.

MOL says it is reducing the environmental burden of vessels transporting automobiles through improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. In 2012 the company launched the world’s first hybrid car carrier, the Emerald ACE. This was followed in April 2015 with the introduction of the next-generation of car carriers, the Flexie series, Which has adopted a new flexible deck design.

MOL has focused on efficiency and minimizing emissions since the launch of the Courageous Ace in 2003, which was fitted with an aerodynamically rounded and beveled bow to help reduce wind resistance. This design resulted in significant energy savings. “All MOL-owned car carriers built since then are based on this design. What’s more, heat-insulating paint on the decks reduces temperatures inside the vessel and increases air conditioning efficiency, double-hull fuel tanks reduce the risk of fuel oil leakage, and low-friction ship-bottom  paint and LED lighting for the hold have been adopted to further enhance energy efficiency,” says the company.

The MOL car carrier service network includes offices and agencies in about 140 nations, with a fleet of some 120 car carriers. These vessels transport other large cargoes such as machinery and trailers used in construction as well as automobiles, busses and trucks.

MOL also provides a broad range of related services such as overland transport of completed vehicles, coastal transport, and terminal operations in six nations, mainly in rapidly-growing Asian markets. MOL has a series of joint ventures with local companies and service providers such as domestic trucking, coastal transport and terminal operator companies to meet the demand for services. MOL says it draws on its 50-plus years of experience in the car carrier business to provide seamless, quick and efficient service in rapidly growing markets like China, India and Mexico.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Rudolf Luttmann, MOL Director of Car and Ro-Ro, how the European Union’s directive that limits sulphur emissions form commercial shipping to 0,1% in the zone extending from the English Channel to the Baltic Sea has impacted MOL.

Luttmann: As one of the leaders in the global shipping industry we always fully comply with and respond to the environmental legislation and regulations. At the same time we have taken this as a challenge to proactively develop emission control further. It is our goal to meet the growing needs of our customers not only in quality and service but also in the environmental area  Our customers in the automotive industry in particular have very high standards when it comes to environmental performance.

“Bluer oceans, cleaner environment and sustainable future” - these are the themes of our activities in this field. Our target is to ensure sustainable ocean shipping by reducing the environmental impact of our activities. In this respect we are constantly reviewing and optimizing our procedures, technologies and know-how.

Our vessels are operating all over the world and different regional regulations makes the operations more complicated. The EU Directive and similar regulations at the U.S. Coast require the usage of low sulphur fuel. Here we had to make adjustments to the operation of the vessels and with suppliers. Meanwhile this has become a standard procedure and the CO2 emissions are within the limits. However, the impact on the cost side is significant.

AI: What strategy has MOL taken to meet the stringent requirements?

Luttmann: Our top priorities are safe operation, process optimization and a further improvement of technologies. That goes through the entire process from offices, vessels operation to partners and suppliers. It goes from energy saving, fuel consumption to waste management and ultimately vessel recycling. We are working together with shipyards, equipment and machine manufacturers to improve the technology. This includes alternative fuels, hull and vessel design, trim and  speed, operation of vessels etc. These are all targeted at reducing the environmental impact.

AI: MOL ACE is the new brand name for your car carrier service – what changes have come into effect since the name change?

Luttmann: With the new organization we have widened our customer base and offer a global service network. Our share of business outside Japan has increased significantly and through our global network with offices in 140 countries around the world our customers can reach us any time. With the know-how of the global network and the local offices we can support our customers with new concepts and tailor made solutions.

AI: What was the reasoning behind the rebranding?

Luttmann: Car manufacturing and assembly lines were moved closer to the markets and consumers. Trade patterns have changed while customers are expecting highest level of services in all areas. This can be achieved only through a global network and close cooperation with local offices.

AI: What are some of the new services / products MOL ACE plans to launch over the next years?

Luttmann: We have introduced a weekly express service from the Mediterranean to China. The transit times are unbeatable. With our new “Flexi” vessels our next target is to increase the share of trucks and high / heavy machinery. New concepts are developed together with our customers. With an innovative team and network we will expand our current service.  



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