Author: Pierre Garreau

3 ways to reduce co2 emissions from sea freight

Remember that reducing CO2 in the logistics is a multipoint process. Historically, shippers — companies who need to move goods from point A to point B — have access to a quarterly report built atop their shipment history. This report summarizes scope 3 emissions, i.e. all emissions related to moving goods, and aggregates them per mode, to present a synthetic view of emissions. In essence that report is static, it presents one KPI — the quarterly CO2e emissions — with which companies are left to adjust their CSR strategy, iterate, find ways to reduce that number at the next cycle. This iterative process is slow, every quarter comes one more data point. And it is essentially impossible to relate that figure to a cause. Are emissions up because we had a better quarter, because sales increased, or is it because our logistics and operations suffered. Is it down because we use greener transporters?

Reducing CO2 emissions, a matter of data.

To make things worse, CSR managers are often left to propose solutions independently of sourcing and logistics. It is difficult to present evidence supporting a particular CO2 reduction strategy over another. And, to add fuel to the fire, the evidence gathered relies too often on data coming from carriers — which is difficult to compare, and sometimes difficult to trust! — or from emissions calculators with outdated methodologies. Too often, we see initiatives based on the (measure — compensate) cycle. What if I told you there is another way?

There is a simple CSR strategy you can implement immediately. It is based around iterations on the (tender — source — report) cycle. All you need is better data. Before looking into it, let’s imagine you are VP Procurement at a large shipper, and that your KPI is to reduce the cost of freight in year n+1. What tools do you put in place, which actions do you take?

Most likely, you will seek transparency on your buying price, for a certain volume on a given route. You will want to compare it across carriers during tenders. During the quarter, procurement will execute on the nominated routes. And, at the end of the quarter, you will review the shipments actually done, and reconciliate. You’ll use the results of reconciliation in the next tender, to improve your bottom line.

As VP CSR seeking to reduce the GHG Emissions of freight — your scope 3! — your strategy is exactly the same: nominate (tender) — measure (spot) — learn (report). Let’s see it work in practice.

Tender — Know your CO2 per services.

In previous blog posts, you have seen how CO2 can be measured either using default data, detailed modeling or primary data. At Searoutes, we’re using detailed modeling to estimate the amount of emissions a vessel emits, for a particular route between a port pair, at a particular speed. We use schedule data and routing algorithms to reconstitute the fleets operation between port pairs, for each carrier and their alliance. The result is what we call a “CO2 risk profile”, per carrier. That risk profile allows shippers to choose a particular carrier during tender, given a CO2 target set by CSR.

In the picture bellow, we show for each route, and for each carrier, the average CO2e emissions per TEU. CO2 values are reported on the x axis, and routes & carriers are on the y axis. Each circle represents an offering by a carrier, or service, on which it operates a fleet. The diameter of a circle shows the heterogeneity of a fleet on that service, it’s the standard deviation of CO2 on that service. A small circle means all the vessels on that service are about the same age, and sail at the same speed, to emit similar CO2e / TEU. A large circle means there are very different vessels sailing the same service, in tonnage, speed and age. Finally the color of circles shows how fast a particular service is: a blue circle means a short transit time, and an orange circle shows a long transit time.

When looking at this picture, there are 2 immediate remarks to be made. First, different carriers end up with similar CO2 risk profiles. How can that be? The answers lies in the fact that carriers, via their alliance mechanics, share the same fleets on a particular service. Therefore the CO2, and its standard deviation, are similar for carriers offering the same port pairs, across the same alliance. Second, high Co2e values (right of the picture) correlate with higher transit times (orange circles). Likewise, low CO2e values (left of the picture) correlate with shorter transit times (dark blue circles). This is immediate, since longer vessel rotations mean longer transit times, and therefore longer distances, so higher emissions. It shows that distance naturally has an impact on both CO2 emissions and transit time. And both can be reduced by picking the right services. It is not always the case however, some services with low CO2 come with higher transit time. You can see orange circles on the very left of this graph as well.

Bottom line is, during the tender process, overlaying the right granularity of CO2 data can help you set your company on the right track, to meet you CSR goals. You then need to execute it well, in your spot procurement process.

Spot — Know your vessels.

After CSR has set targets of CO2 emissions per trade lane, or port pair, you are left to execute, as part of the procurement process. When buying freight, your main worry is the cost, to make sure your lead times are respected, and that you find space on vessels (especially these days). However, CO2 values vary drastically, depending on the service you choose, or which vessel operates a particular loop. You can see for instance on the pictures below, a few schedules for 3 carriers between Hamburg (DEHAM) and Los Angeles (USLAX) coming from our Searoutes’ planner tool.

While reporting transit times, indicative price, carrier and number of transshipment, we also report CO2 values per TEU (in green). For the same carrier, the delta in CO2 between services on that port pair can be as large as 81%. Choose wisely!

Let’s look at comparable transit times. We see on the picture below, the 4th option down which shows a service with 2 transshipments and 29 days of transit time. That service emits 1.27 ton CO2 / TEU on average.

On the picture below, a direct rotation with no transshipment shows 2.03 ton CO2 / TEU with the same transit time of 29 days. That’s an increase of 60%!!

Why does a “direct” service emit more CO2? That’s related to the actual length of the rotation (the intermediate stops), the size of the vessel and its speed.

Assuming procurement has made wise decisions over the quarter, in line with the CO2 emission goals you set during the tender, comes reporting at the end of the quarter. This is a time when you check how you’ve performed against your targets, and start adjusting your CO2 strategy.

Report — Know your worst CO2 performers.

Once the month or the quarter is over, it’s time to review procurement decisions, measure relevant KPIs and confront them to the objectives set at the beginning of the quarter. CO2 KPIs often involve the computation of the intensity factors in kg CO2e / It is a measure of how much CO2 is emitted, considering the weight of all the goods transported, and the kilometers traveled. The normalization to allows one to compare values month to month, independently of if volumes or distances have changed (and they most surely did!).

Typically, the monthly report is constructed in the same fashion as the example below 👇

The intensity factor however, does not have any causality link between a CSR or procurement decision, and the actual increase or decrease of that factor. The only way to find out what worked, is to go one level below, look at which shipment incurred abnormally high emissions, and what can be done to remedy it.

One avenue to explore, is how does your footprint compare to averages on the same port pair, or trade lane. Or how does your intensity factor for that port pair compare to last year’s? Isolate the long tail, the outliers, the shipments with significantly higher emissions than the benchmark. You can then look at the offering of other carriers, and put in place policies to frame these shipments in the next tender.

The Routing API behind BunkerPlanner performance

Few months ago, MOL Nordic Tankers announced they would extend the BunkerPlanner solution live trial to their whole fleet (World maritime News). In an interview given in World maritime News, Andreas Sund Poulsen, VP Global Operations, MOL Nordic Tankers A/S said:“The shipping industry is going through a rapid digitalization, and it is critical that we embrace these new technologies and innovations to help manage the challenges that we face as the sector evolves.” SeaRoutes helps BunkerPlanner with their bunker procurement strategy, therefore helping the shipping industry going a bit more digital. Here is the story.

About BunkerPlanner

BunkerPlanner is a state-of- the-art bunker procurement optimization tool. The tool generates a tailored recommendation for how much bunker of each grade to buy and where to buy it. This software allows companies’ bunker purchasing desks to focus on crafting superior bunkering plans. Bunker Planner also identify the most advantageous choice that increases the competitiveness of their fleet.

By using the software, ship owners and fuel buyers can optimize their fuel procurement strategy on a vessel-by-vessel basis, reducing fuel bills by between 2% to 4% (World maritime News).

Why Searoutes’ routing API?

The solution considers a range of factors that impact bunkering decisions, including fuel price forecasts, trade patterns and routes, vessel speed, fuel consumption, time spent in Emission Control Areas (ECAs), as well as costs related to deviations, port calls and barges among others.

Accurate routes and distances are therefore a key criteria for bunker optimization. Indeed reliable information on routes distances help to choose the best bunkering ports depending on the ROB (Remaining on Board), time and costs of the deviation,  distance increasing and extra fuel consumption on the deviation.

A routing web based solution

Searoutes offers the calculation of ship routes and distances, based on AIS signals (AIS = automatic identification system). Our routes are computed from historical AIS, and contain the relevant information for bunker planning: ECA / SECA zones, passages, waypoints, distances and transit times. One can integrate this data via our routing API, which seamlessly render routes and route information in your application.


What’s an API?

For those of you who are non-techies and non-developers, and if you do not understand what APIs are about, Taija Björklund wrote a helpful article on the topic using analogies. The best is the restaurant one: The waiter is the API. You are someone who is asking for service. In other words, you are an API customer or consumer. The menu is the documentation which explains what you can ask for from the API. The kitchen is for example a server, a database that holds only certain types of data — whatever the buyer has bought for the restaurant as ingredients and what the chef has decided they will offer and what the cooks know how to prepare.”


BunkerPlanner leverages data from Searoutes, through their routing API , which makes high quality routes and distances  available to BunkerPlanner’s customers.

“Our service is based all around an API distance tool. It was essential for us to collaborate with an accurate and reliable API solution. We want to provide our customers with the best bunker ports alternatives.”, Christian Plum- Bunker metrics Co-Founder

The routes are combined with schedule, vessel, bunker price and several other data sources to provide high quality forecasts of bunker consumption for hundreds of possible bunker ports.  Users can either input schedule and vessel data directly. Or this can be pulled automatically from vessel management system for easy use. The routes are customized according to vessel size (draft, width) and use of canals and ECA zones.

The Routing API behind BunkerPlanner performance
Figure 1: BunkerPlanner Platform

The interface shows the best unbiased alternatives for planners. Based on their expertise, they are able to make the best choices to reduce bunker costs and meet their sustainability issues.

Do you need an accurate sea distances and routing  API?

You already have a solution and you are looking for real route distances? routes on your map? Or maybe other route information?

Voyage planning: How to save time and get the best route for your vessel?

As mentioned in Maritime Executive, it can take on average 3.5 hours per vessel and even more of officer time to collate a plan – manually adding elements such as ENC cells, journey waypoints and UKC calculations to a report for inspection by port state authorities and other relevant organizations. Voyage planning is laborious and can lead to human error because of repetitive manual input. Multiplied across vessels, companies and fleets it can show inefficiency, for an industry where optimal resource use and cost savings are now more important than ever.

Digital innovations make voyage planning more effective and efficient. Their objective is to minimize operators’ administrative overhead caused by fragmented tools, such as distance tables, port lists, speed consumption curves and multiple excel sheets.

Voyage planning challenges

Voyage planning is an important aspect of the ship route optimization. It helps to better monitor the voyage and the vessel position along the route considering the depth, channels, straits, tides and current, weather etc.

To get the best voyage planning, a lot of information has to be considered from various sources (Charterers, company, old voyages etc.) and International publications (Admiralty Publications). But also vessels parameters (draft, beam, length, air-draft), Piracy area, SECA area, PSSA, recommended route, distance from shore, depth of water, current direction, weather, navigational hazards, TSS, national and international regulations etc. to plot the safest, shortest navigable route and to meet the charterers requirements of laycan.

Input vessel’s draft to Simplify voyage planning

Some digital solutions already exist to plot the shortest and safest route.  But few, if any, can take all above parameters into consideration and return a route specific to your vessel — since vessel as per their size and draft plots route differently — which is the shortest, safest and most navigated (following AIS data) route by the ships.

As an example, let’s consider a vessel with following information:

  • Length: 400 meters
  • Beam: 50 meters
  • Draft: 22 meters
  • Voyage: from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Singapore

Reed’s Marine Distance table: 8350 NM (Via Suez Canal). There is no option to avoid Suez Canal hence HRA area, no particular regard to maximum permissible Suez Canal transit draft. No depicted route etc.

Voyage planning without vessel’s draft input

If we consider ship routing following the solution below, the shortest and safest route from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Singapore for the vessel mentioned above goes through Suez Canal.

Voyage planning: How to save time and get the best route for your vessel?
Figure 1: Others solutions’ route

We get the distance as 8431 NM including 394NM in SECA zone. There is no consideration of Vessel Particulars. No consideration as well if the vessel can pass through Suez Canal, Malacca strait or Singapore strait. Stakeholders have to gather data from various sources (official information, Local agents, ports etc.) to confirm if the vessel with the present draft can sail through the respective canal. This is time consuming, and if not considered can lead to all the wrong calculations and operational management.

Stay focus on your core business, let us do the math

Searoutes  API considers all the vessel parameters and makes the route, vessel specific, since we know the conditions which affect route planning and that routes differ from vessel to vessel as per their draft, beam and length. We know that the shortest, safest route for a small vessel with 5000 dwt will be different from a 200,000 dwt one.  This will have an impact on the distance calculation and therefore will affect all the operational decisions and finally will have a huge impact on the cost.

To calculate the accurate distance and route we integrate below parameters for the user input:

  1. Port of departure (Required)
  2. Port of Arrival (required)
  3. IMO number (for vessel particulars)
  4. Vessel draft
  5. Areas to avoid (Canals/straits, piracy, SECA etc.)
  6. Speed (to get calculated ETA)
  7. Departure time (to estimate ETA, if input is the actual departure time it will return accurate ETA)

Let’s consider the same example for a voyage from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Singapore with the same vessel’s characteristics.

Voyage planning: How to save time and get the best route for your vessel?
Figure 2: Vessel’s – 22mtrs draft – route with Searoutes

After, user input these parameters to get the shortest route, the return will be around the cape of good hope with a distance of 11851.3 NM including SECA distance: 417 NM, and not through Suez Canal (distance: 8481 NM), as the vessel cannot transit the Suez Canal due to Draft Limitation. Furthermore, with the correct and accurate distance you get the correct ETA  it saves valuable time and money. Therefore, if anyone returns the shortest route through Suez, it won’t be accurate. It will lead to all the wrong calculation of ETA, bunker, and all operational decisions. This can have a Huge impact on the company.

Result of Searoutes API, Rotterdam, Netherlands to Singapore, shortest, safest and most navigated route, as per vessel’s particulars. Route going through Cape of Good Hope and Sunda Strait.

Voyage planning: How to save time and get the best route for your vessel?
Figure 3: Vessel’s – 16mtrs draft- route with Searoutes

If we consider the same vessel in ballast condition with draft of 16 mtrs, then the vessel can transit the suez canal with the current draft to load port. This can be easily done with the use of our API.


Searoutes is dedicated to provide the realistic data with accuracy. As for route computation we take into account vessel particulars considering draft, beam, length, navigational hazards, TSS, etc. We return the vessel specific route, as the user input the IMO number of the vessel. Our route is more realistic as we take the data points from the AIS of the vessel.  The returned route is shortest, safest and most navigated. As in Searoutes we know that routes are specific for a given vessel. Indeed the shortest route may not be through a canal but around it. This will have an impact on the ETA, operational decisions, and all other calculations.

Searoutes enables shippers and freight forwarders to choose the greenest carriers

Using actual route data and vessel characteristics obtained from AIS (Automated Identification Systems) data, Searoutes goes beyond the standard methodology and provides CO2 emission calculations that accurately match the services operated by the carriers. Shippers now have an unprecedented decision-making tool to help them choose the services that emit the least CO2 and optimise their transport policy.

In the framework of the Green Deal, the European Commission estimates that a 90% reduction in emissions from the transport sector by 2050 is necessary to achieve the climate ambitions set by the Paris agreement. However, according to the International Transport Forum (ITF), the demand for freight transport should be multiplied by 3 and the associated CO2 emissions by 4 by 2050 (source:

This is what motivated Searoutes, a young startup in the South of France, to develop an innovative CO2 calculation tool. Searoutes does not aim at saving the world of logistics, but certainly wants to participate in its change.

Measuring and comparing carbon footprints to take measured action.

“Improving the performance of supply chains is a central issue for all companies. Not only in economic and commercial terms, but also in environmental terms. The ability to accurately calculate the CO2 emissions of transport services in order to make the best decisions has become a major issue,” says Pierre Garreau, Co-founder and CEO of Searoutes. “There are many criteria that are taken into account and influence CO2. Not only do we need access to huge volumes of data, but we also need to be able to process them to produce usable information. This is a particularly important challenge for maritime transport, which is estimated to account for between 80 and 90% of world merchandise trade.  

So far, the estimation of CO2 emissions from maritime freight between a point A and a point B follows the methodology for calculating and reporting energy consumption and GHG emissions from transport services, or EN 16258. Searoutes is able to go further thanks to its innovative solution based on three key elements:

  • The use of AIS data: Automatic Identification Systems equip all transport vessels and make it possible to know their real identity, characteristics, position, speed and route (GPS data).
  • The integration of all the schedules of the maritime carriers: Searoutes integrates each service operating on each maritime line, taking into account a very high level of detail (number of calls, duration of calls, loading/unloading times, etc.).
  • Proprietary algorithms: the processing of AIS data, which is raw data, requires very high computing power to transform it into usable information. Thanks to machine learning algorithms, Searoutes is able to extract the true distances and speeds, necessary for an accurate Co2 footprint calculation.

With more granular data, Searoutes enables shippers to choose the service and carrier that will emit the least CO2gain visibility on the services that have emitted the most CO2 and optimise their transport policy through automated CO2 reporting for their bookings.

Many players in the logistics sector, from start-ups to large groups, such as CEVA Logistics and  Buyco, trust Searoutes to calculate their customers’ CO2 emissions and other related services. Since the launch of its Co2 Product last May, the startup has a dozen customers on CO2 and expects to triple its turnover by the end of 2020 vs N-1.

Frédéric Obala, Chief Digital & Transformation Officer of CEVA Logistics says “The growing stakes of CO2, a strategic imperative for CEVA Logistics and the CMA CGM Group, lead us to be ever more agile. The flexibility of the partnership with SEAROUTES reinforces our ability to develop products even more quickly with functionalities such as deep-learning algorithms, which are essential for the control of our carbon footprint”.

Carl Lauron, BuyCo’s founding president and CEO follows – “BuyCo is a collaborative platform dedicated to exporters, importers and their partners to plan, execute and monitor their container shipping operations. Searoutes seduced us with its serious and pragmatic approach to calculating CO2 emissions. The integration of the Searoutes API now allows BuyCo’s customers to fulfill their reporting obligations by analyzing the carbon dioxide emissions of their past transports. Our customers will also soon be able to benefit from the information on estimated CO2 emissions as an additional criterion when making their booking request to a shipping company through our platform,  which no solution previously allowed”.

Searoutes’ vision: Finding the greenest route.

To achieve sustainable transport of goods, shippers need to be offered solutions with the choice to opt for cleaner and more affordable routes. The startup aims to find the optimal route in terms of CO2 emissions, from pick up to delivery. The one with the lowest carbon footprint according to the different services available, all modes combined (Sea, Air, Rail, Road), from point A to point B.

Pierre Garreau, Co-founder and CEO of Searoutes – “We want to give shippers decision power. They have objectives to achieve, in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, and European regulations are pushing them to set these objectives to reduce them. Today shippers need a tool to make good decisions and achieve these targets. A tool that allows them to choose the service that will emit the least CO2 for the same price and the same transit time. “

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