Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 



August 1, 2018

As the joke goes, cattle roam in herds, a group of geese is a gaggle, and a collection of hybrid cars is a smug. Spend any time on Interstate 5 between the Canadian and Mexican borders and you’ll likely be caught in a smug of Toyota Prius hybrids, many of which are owned and operated by government agencies.

We don’t intend to argue the merits of hybrid vs. gasoline or electric, but have long been surprised by the vehemence with which environmentalists condemn ocean-going (and port befouling) vessels while driving their wasteful hybrids up and down the freeway.

Yes wasteful. After years of educated guessing, we conducted a brief and simple exercise to determine just how bad a Prius is for the planet.

We couldn’t really compare the 18,000-TEU CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin with your neighbor’s hybrid on a trip to Costco, so we did the best we could with the data at hand. We compared a modern car carrier regularly used to transport Toyotas from the factory in Japan to Benicia. The distance traveled is roughly 5,150 miles, over which distance the Prius would earn a respectable 50 miles per gallon, after running the first 6 miles on battery alone.

Over the distance, the Prius would burn 103 gallons of unleaded gas, and produce 685 kg of CO2.

A typical car carrier moves 5,213 cars with a 15,000-Kw engine burning heavy fuel oil. The trip would take ten days, and consume 2,001 gallons per day for a total burn of 20,010 gallons and producing 2.3 million kilos of CO2.

On arrival at the SSA terminal in Benicia, the ship burning bunker fuel all the way across the Pacific will have transported more than 5,000 hybrids while emitting only 441.2 kilograms per car, as opposed to the 685 kg each car would emit on its own.

We admit to not being surprised by these data – after all, we’ve known for years how much more efficient the shipping industry is for moving freight than any other industry, but we are nonetheless pretty satisfied to have the results before us in black and white.

Satisfied, and maybe a bit smug.

Chris can be reached at


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