To ship or not to ship, that is the question.

Being in charge of operations at WBC has its perks – among other things, free and scintillating subscriptions to magazines all about container shipping!

In a recent issue however, there was in fact a fascinating article about the shipping line Maersk’s new super-size “Triple E” class vessel. It unearths some pretty interesting points for all of us who ship goods from further afield; whether you do so directly or indirectly. Our India bags for life service, is by far our most economical in terms of cost to you and the design options it provides. But as you’ll see below, it’s also by far our ‘greenest’ option too.

Maersk’s new super-size “Triple E” class vessel is a monster. 400 metres long, 59 metres wide and capable of carrying 18,000 20-foot containers. Interestingly, they were designed to minimise fuel consumption and reduce environmental impact. In fact  one of these ships uses 37% less fuel than it’s predecessor, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions per container by about 50%.

Why am I interested in levels of CO2 emissions in shipping? Well over the last year or so, believe it or not, we’ve seen a significant increase in airfreight shipments of bags for life back from our factory in India. It’s faster, reducing lead-time to about 7 weeks which some time-pressed customers find more convenient. Flight time – a little over 10 hours – and obviously considerably more direct than the shipping route below. But with convenience comes cost, both to your wallet and more importantly to the environment. It’s why, to be plainly honest, we try and avoid air-freight, while recognising that sometimes client deadlines mean there is no alternative.

I thought it would be interesting to share with our bags for life customers just what all these numbers about CO2 actually mean in terms of a single humble jute shopping bag.

Our shipping route takes your bag some 14,000 km from Kolkata to Southamption

So let’s say for the sake of argument we base this on a large 10oz jute shopper, one of our most popular jute bags (220g). To ship by sea on one of Maersk’s Triple E vessels is a voyage of about 14,000km, the CO2 per bag works out at approximately 13.5 grams. To airfreight that same bag from Kolkata back to London is about 8000km, roughly half the shipping journey. However, the CO2 per bag works out at a whopping 989 grams!

That’s a rather shocking 70 fold increase !

The above is purely illustrative of course, and we don’t necessarily ship on Maersk vessels. But when you consider that sea-freight from Kolkata to the UK is about 4 weeks and air-freight usually takes 4-5 days, the 20 or so days saved by flying bags back do carry a very heavy environmental price tag.

All this to say that when you see us banging on about planning ahead and working around a 12-14 week lead time, it’s not just because we want your order, we do of course, but it’s mainly because wherever possible, we have an obligation to try and ship as much as possible by sea and avoid the CO2 emissions associated with air-freight. For want of a less over-used phrase – at the end of the day – that’s the whole point of them being ‘eco-friendly’ bags for life.

The next time you fill up your car and marvel at the sheer price of fuel these days, bear in mind that just one of these new Maersk vessels will consume about £750,000 worth of fuel on a voyage from Asia back to Europe. But it does so with a considerably less cost to the environment.



There is 1 comment for this article
  1. James Hayward at 3:36 pm

    Amazing that the bags make it here so quickly when you consider how far they travel! As Jute is naturally grown as a cash cop in that part of the world it gives a huge boost to what would otherwise be a rather impoverished area. I firmly believe that Jute is a great product and that buying a bag for life helps provide employment, helps ensure easy to grow crops are harvested rather than intensely farmed crops and also results in less plastic waste. 50 years ago everyone used a Bag for Life – amazing it has taken so long for us to get back to them!

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