Seven years earlier than Maersk initially planned, the company will operate a carbon neutral container ship. The methanol-fuelled feeder vessel is to hit the water in 2023. The container liner says all its future newbuildings will have dual-fuel technology, enabling either carbon neutral operations or operation on standard very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO).

A.P. Moller-Maersk says it is speeding up its efforts to decarbonise marine operations due to advances in technology and increasing customer demand for sustainable supply chains. Originally, the company had planned for a carbon neutral liner vessel by 2030.

Decarbonising the global supply chains

‘A.P. Moller-Maersk’s ambition is to lead the way in decarbonising global logistics,’ says Søren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller-Maersk. ‘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 it in 2018. Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach.’

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.

Kick start use of E-methanol or bio-methanol

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 VLSFO, the plan is to operate the vessel on carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol from day one.

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Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of Fleet & Strategic Brands at Maersk: ‘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 groundbreaking 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.’

Both the methanol-fueled feeder vessel and the decision to install dual-fuel engines on future newbuildings are part of Maersk’s ongoing fleet replacement. CAPEX implications will be manageable and are included in current guidance.

Primary fuel candidates

A carbon neutral future for shipping requires innovation, test and collaboration across multiple industry partners, according to Maersk. The company 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.

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