In a historic move for the global shipping industry, Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, introduced its first container vessel powered by green methanol on Thursday. This development marks a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions in an industry notorious for its environmental impact.
The newly unveiled container ship, ordered in 2021, boasts a dual-engine system. While one engine relies on traditional fuels, the other is powered by green methanol—a sustainable alternative derived from biomass or captured carbon and hydrogen from renewable sources. This innovative approach translates into a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, with the new vessel emitting 100 fewer tons of CO2 per day compared to its diesel-powered counterparts.
Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc expressed his enthusiasm for this groundbreaking achievement, emphasizing its symbolic importance in the company’s energy transition journey. “It’s a really symbolic day of our energy transition, really becoming a reality, something concrete that we can actually demonstrate, not just commitments and hard work, but actually something that everybody can see,” Clerc told CNBC.
Clerc also highlighted the broader industry impact of this technological leap. “Today, just a couple of years later, we have 125 ships that have been ordered by different companies to actually work on the same technology and the same energy transition. So this ship is really a trendsetter for a whole industry,” he noted.
While Maersk is leading the charge in adopting green methanol technology, other shipping firms, including Evergreen, have also placed orders for similar vessels. However, Maersk’s commitment to ambitious carbon neutrality targets sets it apart in the race to reduce emissions within the maritime sector.
Shipping accounts for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change, on par with major polluting countries. Despite this, decarbonizing the shipping industry has proven to be a complex challenge.
Denmark’s Minister of Industry, Morten Bodskov, attributes this challenge to the global nature of the industry and the need for comprehensive international agreements. “And if you want to make a global agreement, you have to have, I mean, more or less all countries behind the agreement, and then it is an industry in a highly competitive market. That has also been a key factor,” Bodskov told CNBC.
One proposal to accelerate decarbonization efforts is the implementation of a shipping tax, which has garnered support from 20 nations. Maersk’s CEO voiced his support for such a tax, emphasizing the need for economic incentives to drive the green transition.
Despite the groundbreaking nature of this green methanol-powered vessel, concerns persist regarding the availability of green methanol as a fuel source. Analysts worry that Maersk and its competitors may face challenges in securing a reliable supply of this scarce and expensive fuel.
Ulrik Bak, a research analyst at SEB, pointed out, “When I look at the market for these green fuels, methanol is definitely one of the most advanced products out there at the moment. But what I can hear from the industry and from market participants is that the ramp-up of methanol, green methanol, hasn’t ramped up very fast.”
To address this issue, Maersk has signed agreements with at least nine green methanol suppliers worldwide, aiming to encourage increased production of the sustainable fuel. Vincent Clerc acknowledged the supply challenge as a significant concern but expressed growing confidence in securing a consistent supply.
As Maersk strives to achieve its climate neutrality goal by 2040, the introduction of these new green methanol-powered vessels represents a pivotal step forward in the transformation of the global shipping industry toward sustainability. However, the industry’s success in scaling up the production and availability of green methanol will be a critical factor in realizing these ambitious environmental objectives.