What can be done in freight transport?
Air freight transport forms part of global aviation. The fastest way to transport goods is by plane; however, due to the high costs of air freight, companies are already very interested in circumventing this mode of transport and using others wherever possible. There are several ways to do this:
The most effective option seems far away in our globalized world with supply chains with multiple branches: companies can optimize these in such a way that they are more strongly geared to regional production and preference is given to regional suppliers and vendors. This would reduce not only air freight, but also freight traffic overall. In addition, optimized planning and (re-)introduction of warehousing, for example of spare parts, can help to avoid situations in which particularly fast delivery is required.
Freight forwarders and logistics companies can improve the processes and monitoring of temperature-controlled transport by sea to ensure that the temperature always remains within specified parameters throughout the transport chain.
Optimizing packaging can reduce the weight and volume of goods. The use of lightweight materials can also reduce the weight of transport containers. While this does not keep the goods on the ground, it does reduce the amount of unnecessary weight transported over long distances.
Companies can also draw on alternatives to solely using aviation for deliveries that are time-sensitive but do not need to be in the destination country within a few days. In recent years, for example, freight train traffic between Germany and China has steadily increased. The first train started from Beijing to Hamburg in 2008; in 2017, there were 3,600 eastbound and westbound trains, and in 2018, there were already 6,300 eastbound and westbound trains. Nearly 10,000 trains are forecast for 2030. With rail, the transit time can be significantly reduced compared to maritime transport – for example, from China to Duisburg by 12 to 15 days – but it is significantly higher than that of air freight services.
In addition to rail transport, it is also possible to combine air and maritime transport of goods. In this case, the goods do not remain on the ground, but are flown over a shorter distance. For example, freight can be transported from China to Dubai by ship and then flown to Germany, which almost halves the distance flown.
Not only companies have the power to reduce air freight; consumers can also help ensure that as few flights as possible are taken. Perhaps a single rose might be enough on Mother’s Day? Maybe the cell phone or game console doesn’t need to be replaced just yet? Maybe the laptop can be repaired rather than replaced? Maybe we could eat more regional produce instead of exotic food flown in from abroad? A tax on air freight would also help reduce the consumption of goods transported by plane.
Cut flowers from Africa
A large share of the roses imported to Germany today come from Africa. In 2019, for example, over 300 million roses were imported directly from Kenya to Germany. To ensure that the flowers bloom for a long time after purchase, it is important that the cold chain is not interrupted along the entire way and that the temperature is about 3°C. The roses are ordinarily transported by cargo plane and reach Germany after about two days and 8,000 km. After four days at the latest, the roses should be in the supermarket.
Some companies have tested alternatives: transport by container ship. This takes 25 days, is carried out at 0.5°C, but is not suitable for all rose varieties. This can reduce freight costs and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also possible, of course, to avoid air freight transport when the roses are grown in Europe. This can reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. However, significantly higher emissions may result from agricultural production than is the case with imported roses.