How Red Sea cargo disruptions are driving up carbon emissions

STORY: This is a cargo ship, used to transport goods around the world and often through the Suez Canal in the Red Sea.

Each year, about 6,000 ships like these travel the world’s oceans – delivering $7 trillion worth of goods to ports and producing climate-warming CO2 emissions along the way.


But a surge of attacks on ships traveling through the Red Sea is forcing shippers to reroute their vessels.

:: Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority

Here’s a look at the toll that’s taking on the environment.

:: How Red Sea disruptions are driving up carbon emissions

:: Houthi Military Media

Last year – Yemen’s Houthi rebel forces began attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea – in protest of Israel’s assault on the Gaza strip.

:: Journey of the San Clemente before and after the conflict

:: Source: LSEG

Since then, hundreds of cargo ships – powered by heavy fuel oil – have been diverted around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, resulting in higher emissions.

:: Source: LSEG

:: 38% more CO2 emissions

This journey from Shanghai to Hamburg, for example, produces 38% more carbon dioxide, according to an analysis of tracking data by LSEG.

:: Maersk

Tracking platform ShipsGo estimates that more than 600 vessels have been rerouted since the attacks began in October and average transit times increased by around 50%.

Each of the metal containers aboard a ship can also be tracked individually as they travel to their destinations, so that companies buying or selling the goods can calculate their carbon footprint – a key step in reducing emissions.

Here’s a visual representation of the amount of CO2 released on a container traveling its original route: about 1.07 tons.

And here’s what they actually emitted – due to re-routing.

On average – 1.35 tons of carbon dioxide per container.

At this rate, the extra emissions from one ship carrying 10,000 containers on a single rerouted journey would dwarf the Statue of Liberty.

This is risky for companies.

Ten of the world’s 30 biggest companies have reported higher emission tallies in recent years – tied to shipping.

The Red Sea delays could make that worse.

Officials from some of those companies said failing to cut overall emissions could risk alienating consumers, losing investors, or jeopardizing their ability to secure sustainable financing.

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