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Maersk says it will launch a carbon neutral vessel by 2023, seven years ahead of schedule

The container ship Maersk Murcia sits moored in the port of Gothenburg, Sweden, on August 24, 2020.

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Images

Shipping giant Maersk said Wednesday it would launch a carbon-neutral vessel by 2023, seven years ahead of schedule, as it attempts to reduce its environmental footprint and hit a target of net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.

According to the Danish firm, the largest container shipping company in the world, the vessel will be powered by either carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol, although it will still be able to run on standard very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) if required.

In simple terms, “carbon neutral” means that CO2 emissions are offset by an equal amount of CO2 removal. If something is carbon negative, it means that more CO2 is removed from the atmosphere than emitted.

Looking forward, all new vessels owned by Maersk will be able to run on carbon neutral fuels, with the company stating it will “install dual fuel engines on future newbuildings.” The word “newbuilding” refers to a ship that has recently been built or is under construction.

The environmental footprint of shipping is significant. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2019 international shipping — a crucial cog in the world’s economy — was responsible for approximately 2% of “global energy-related CO2 emissions.”

Speaking to CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Wednesday morning, Maersk’s head of decarbonization explained how several things had “gone in the right direction” when it came to accelerating the development of the methanol-fueled vessel.

“We have learned a lot as a company about the opportunities that are there, technology has developed,” Morten Bo Christiansen said.

“And, last but not least, our customers are clearly expecting this from us, they need us to support them in decarbonizing their supply chains.”

Asked how his company would source enough carbon neutral fuels to meet its future needs, Christiansen stated that it was a “chicken and egg situation.”

“There’s a lot of projects on the drawing board but not a lot of willing off-takers,” he said. “With this, we are trying to actually make a statement that we want to get this ball rolling, we want to get started on producing these fuels and actually putting them in the market so that the market can scale.”

Maersk, he explained, was in dialogue with several partners with regards to this issue, although it was not yet ready to name who it was dealing with.

“But definitely … this will be the big challenge: to get sufficient supplies of properly carbon neutral fuels,” he added.

Christiansen went on to state that Maersk’s customers would “get access to a product that represents a concept that is properly scalable.”

“It also means that they will get a feel for how much extra cost this will add,” he said.

Noting that while the company was not yet certain with regards to price points, Christiansen added: “What we do know is that, when we look at the end consumer products, so a pair of sneakers or a flat screen TV, then … the impact on those products would be measured in cents rather than dollars.”

“So from that perspective, it would seem like something that can actually be absorbed, and hopefully scale the decarbonization of our customers’ supply chains.”


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