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A.P. Moller - Maersk has announced it intends to operate the world’s first carbon neutral liner vessel by 2023 seven years ahead of the initial target of 2030.

Fast-tracked by advances in technology and increasing customer demand for sustainable supply chains, the Danish shipping giant has also announced that all future Maersk-owned newbuildings will have dual fuel technology installed, enabling either carbon neutral operations or operation on standard very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO).

‘A.P. Moller – Maersk’s 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,’ said Søren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller - Maersk.

‘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.’

As previously reported, last month, Maersk announced the launch of a new dedicated team to accelerate the decarbonisation of its own operations as well as the supply chain of its customers. Maersk said that around half of its 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.

The Copenhagen-headquartered company’s methanol feeder vessel will have a capacity of around 2,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (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.

‘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,’ said Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of Fleet & Strategic Brands, A.P. Moller - Maersk.

‘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-fuelled 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.

Maersk said that a carbon neutral future for shipping requires ‘innovation, test and collaboration across multiple industry partners’; and the company is continuing 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’, the company said.

As Bunkerspot reported last week, during the company’s Q4 and full year 2020 earnings call, Skou highlighted the ‘big retrofit opportunity’ that lies ahead once the company settles on a future fuel strategy.

Responding to the announcement, the Methanol Institute welcomed the commitment from Maersk.

'Maersk is once again showing industry leadership in adopting renewable Methanol as a key plank in its strategy towards carbon neutrality,' said Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer of the Methanol Institute. 'Methanol is proven as a clean, efficient and safe marine fuel that offers immediate decarbonisation benefits to vessel operators with substantial net GHG reductions, full compliance with IMO2020 and a pathway that leads to net carbon neutrality as production of renewable Methanol grows.'

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