HSE & Sustainability

Maersk Steams Toward Carbon-Neutral Fuel for Shipping

The company says it is planning eight large ocean-going container vessels that can run on methanol, with the first being announced in 2024.

Credit: Maersk.

A.P. Moller - Maersk has announced that it is planning a series of container vessels that can run on methanol. In 2024, the company will introduce the first in a series of eight large ocean-going ships that can use the carbon-neutral fuel. The vessels will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and will have a nominal capacity of approximately 16,000 containers. The agreement with HHI includes an option for four additional vessels in 2025. The series will replace older vessels, generating annual CO2 emissions savings of around 1 million tonnes.

“The time to act is now if we are to solve shipping’s climate challenge,” said Soren Skou, A.P. Moller - Maersk’s chief executive officer. “This order proves that carbon-neutral solutions are available today across container vessel segments and that Maersk stands committed to the growing number of our customers who look to decarbonize their supply chains. Further, this is a firm signal to fuel producers that sizable market demand for the green fuels of the future is emerging at speed.”

More than half of Maersk’s 200 largest customers have set—or are in the process of setting—ambitious carbon targets for their supply chains. Several of Maersk’s customers, including Amazon, Disney, Microsoft, and Unilever, have committed to actively use and scale zero-carbon options for their ocean transport.

“Unilever is committed to accelerating the transition to clean transport solutions, not just in our own operations but along global value chains as we work to achieve net zero emissions by 2039,” said Maurice Loosschilder, head of sustainability at Unilever. “With logistics and distribution accounting for around 15% of our greenhouse-gas emissions footprint, it’s important that we work with partners shifting to lower carbon fuels.”

The new vessels will come with a dual-fuel engine setup. Additional capital expenditure for the dual-fuel capability, which enables operation on methanol as well as conventional low-sulfur fuel, will be in the range of 10–15% of the total price, Maersk has said.

Maersk has said that it will operate the vessels on carbon-neutral e-methanol or sustainable biomethanol as soon as possible. Sourcing an adequate amount of carbon-neutral methanol from the first day of service will be challenging because it requires a significant production ramp up of proper carbon-neutral methanol production, for which Maersk said it plans to engage in partnerships and collaborations with relevant players.

The vessels will be designed to have a flexible operational profile, enabling them to perform efficiently across many trades. The vessels will be classed by the American Bureau of Shipping and sail under Danish flags.

The new vessels come as part of Maersk’s ongoing fleet renewal program and will replace vessels reaching the end of life and leaving the Maersk-managed fleet between 2020 and 2024.