MSC has decided not to explore or use the Northern Sea Route between Europe and Asia for container shipping, which is becoming increasing navigable due to melting ice.
CMA CGM has already made a similar commitment although Maersk last year carried out a one-off trial sending a container ship loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics on the route.
In a statement, MSC criticised shipping lines which use the route as “seeking to take advantage of melting ice from global warming”.
Diego Aponte, president and CEO of MSC Group, stated: “As a responsible company with a longstanding nautical heritage and passion for the sea, MSC finds the disappearance of Arctic ice to be profoundly disturbing.
“Every drop in the oceans is precious and our industry should focus its efforts on limiting environmental emissions and protecting the marine environment across existing trade routes.”
The carrier, which is convinced that the 21 million containers moved each year for its customers can be transported around the world without passing through this Arctic corridor, will instead focus on improving environmental performance on existing trade routes.
A surge in container shipping traffic in the Arctic could damage air quality and endanger the biodiversity of untouched marine habitats, noted the carrier.
In an effort to tackle climate change, the shipping line has completed a programme to retrofit more than 250 ships in its current fleet with the latest green technologies, cutting around 2m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
Its latest new-builds including the MSC Gülsün – the largest container ship in the world – enable the lowest carbon footprint in container shipping by design, at 7.49 grams of CO2 emissions to move 1 tonne of cargo 1 nautical mile.
The company’s fleet improvement programme resulted in a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work between 2015 and 2018.
Bud Darr, executive vice president of maritime policy and government affairs at MSC Group, stated: “MSC is on a well-defined pathway to meet the 2030 IMO level of ambition for CO2 emissions intensity reduction.
“The great challenge which remains for container shipping this century is how to decarbonise and meet the UN IMO’s future emissions goals beyond 2030. While we are fully supporting these more distant targets, this will not be achievable without some major breakthroughs in fuel and propulsion technologies.”
MSC is currently studying the potential of new alternative fuel sources and is engaging with vendors to investigate solutions related to biofuel blends, hydrogen fuel cells, complementary battery power and, potentially, wind and solar.