Wednesday, February 17, 2021

First Carbon Neutral Ocean Going Container Ship Slated for 2023

Feeder Vessel to Launch Seven Years Ahead of Schedule
Shipping News Feature

DENMARK – WORLDWIDE – While many have said that a target of carbon neutrality by 2030 for shipping at large is an impossibility, that is not the view so it seems for the largest container line in the world as AP Moller Maersk announces its first such vessel will launch in 2023, seven years ahead of schedule.

Maersk’s methanol feeder vessel will have a capacity of around 2000 TEU and be deployed in one of its intra-regional networks. While the vessel will be able to operate on standard very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), the plan is to operate the vessel on carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol from day one.

One ship does not of course a fleet make, however considering the initial target was 2050 this new craft is certainly a step in the right direction. Even as it stands, with many considering ocean cargo carriage as highly polluting, this ignores the fact that the transport mode is responsible for around 90% of all the trade delivered internationally, making its emissions only a fraction of the pollution per tonne using other modes such as road haulage and air freight.

Whilst it is hard to envisage a truly carbon neutral ocean going carrier, electrical propulsion may suit short sea ferry crossings and the new wind assisted technologies are dependent on meteorological conditions, Maersk has at least aimed for the stars with all future new vessels it orders to be constructed with dual fuel technology installed, enabling either carbon neutral operations or operation on standard VLSFO.

The Danish group says around half of Maersk’s 200 largest customers have set, or are in the process of setting, ambitious science-based or zero carbon targets for their supply chains, and the figure is on the rise. Søren Skou, AP Moller Maersk CEO said:

“[Our]ambition is to lead the way in decarbonising global logistics. Our customers expect us to help them decarbonise their global supply chains, and we are embracing the challenge, working on solving the practical, technical and safety challenges inherent in the carbon neutral fuels we need in the future. Our ambition to have a carbon neutral fleet by 2050 was a moonshot when we announced in 2018. Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach.”

Both the methanol fuelled feeder vessel and the decision to install dual fuel engines on future new buildings are part of Maersk’s ongoing fleet replacement. CAPEX implications will be manageable and are included in current guidance. Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of Fleet & Strategic Brands at Maersk said:

“It will be a significant challenge to source an adequate supply of carbon neutral methanol within our timeline to pioneer this technology. Our success relies on customers embracing this ground breaking product and strengthened collaboration with fuel manufacturers, technology partners and developers to ramp up production fast enough. We believe our aspiration to put the world’s first carbon neutral liner vessel in operation by 2023 is the best way to kick start the rapid scaling of carbon neutral fuels we will need.”

A carbon neutral future for shipping requires innovation, test and collaboration across multiple industry partners. Maersk says it continues to explore several carbon neutral fuel pathways and expects multiple fuel solutions to exist alongside each other in the future. Methanol (e-methanol and bio-methanol), alcohol-lignin blends and ammonia remain the primary fuel candidates for the future in the view of the group.

A key collaboration partner is the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping, an independent, non-profit research and development centre, that works across sectors, organisations, research areas and regulators to accelerate the development and implementation of new energy systems and technologies.