Laura Maersk is born: Ursula von der Leyen christens world’s 1st green containership

The world’s first containership powered by green methanol has officially been named in the picturesque city of Copenhagen, Denmark by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Naming ceremony; Image credit Maersk

“I name you Laura Maersk! As you sail the waters of the world, may your journeys be smooth and your tasks successful. May you bring happiness to the crew and be a safe haven for all who board you and may you bring prosperity and pride to all. I wish you Godspeed,” von der Leyen said before smashing the bottle of champagne over the ship’s bow and officially revealing the feeder’s name.

The ship was named after the company’s first steamship vessel, Laura, which was also the first vessel to wear the white seven-pointed star on a light blue background. The ship was bought by Captain Peter Maersk Moller in 1886 during the Industrial Revolution.

This symbol later would become the logo of A.P. Moller – Maersk.

Image credit: Maersk

The green methanol-powered Laura Maersk symbolizes a new era for the company which has become a first mover for the shipping industry as it enters a new chapter of a decarbonized future.

This groundbreaking event marked a major milestone in the shipping industry’s transition towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. It was attended by a diverse audience, including distinguished guests, industry leaders, and environmentally conscious individuals from around the world.

The cutting-edge 2,100 TEU container vessel, powered by green methanol, and classed by ABS, was built at South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard.

MAN Energy Solutions and Hyundai Engine and Machinery, in collaboration with Hyundai Mipo and Maersk, developed the methanol propulsion configuration for the vessel. The main engine was supplied by Hyundai Engine and Machinery, while the auxiliary engine was supplied by Himsen.

The feeder will be followed by 24 large ocean-going vessels of 9,000-17,200 TEU capacity which are scheduled for delivery in 2024 and 2027.

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The historic naming ceremony: The times are changing

The ceremony began with a stunning performance by the Danish female choir UngKlang, who beautifully sang Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and the Danish anthem, “I Denmark er jeg født” (In Denmark, I was born). These songs set the stage for the day’s events, emphasizing the need for change and celebrating Denmark’s role as a pioneering green nation.

The program included insightful speeches from key figures in the shipping and environmental sectors, highlighting the importance of this momentous occasion. Among the notable speakers were Robert Mærsk Uggla, Chairman of A.P. Moller Maersk, and Mr. Vincent Clerc, CEO of A.P. Moller Maersk, both emphasizing the urgency of the industry’s transition towards greener alternatives.

“While the vessel is fairly modest in size, 2,100 TEU, which is around ten percent what the world’s biggest containerships usually carry, its importance and its impact transcends its physical dimensions,” Robert Mærsk Uggla said while delivering a speech during the naming ceremony.

“Similar to Laura the steamship, this ship represents an industrial revolution yet of a green character. Two and a half years ago many in our industry argued that liquefied natural gas (LNG) was the future fuel for shipping. However, LNG is still a fossil fuel and the occurrence of methane slip is considered highly damaging to the environment. At the time, many did not see any green alternatives. But a lot has happened in the last few years. This very ship has become the catalyst for such change,” he added, explaining that methanol offers a window of opportunity for companies that want to start their transition now.

He expressed optimism about the future, with over 170 ships in development or earmarked for retrofitting to run on green methanol, marking the beginning of a green revolution in global supply chains.

“This is the beginning of a green revolution of our global supply chains. Together with partners in this room, and elsewhere, we are exploring other pathways to decarbonize trade including other fuels. The most important question is no longer how to develop new technologies but rather how to speed up the implementation of available solutions, and scale the global supply of green fuels”

By 2030, Maersk will need approximately 5 million tons of green fuels for its ships and today’s global production of green methanol is below 100,000 tons, therefore the acceleration of production and scaling up is of major significance.

Clerc: A significant moment for Maersk and an inflection point for the entire industry

Clerc highlighted the significant progress made by Maersk in adopting green methanol as a viable fuel source and the company’s commitment to achieving climate neutrality. He praised the collaborative efforts of partners, regulators, and customers in making this transition possible and emphasized the importance of leadership and vision in driving change.

Laura Maersk is a historic milestone for shipping across the globe. It shows the entrepreneurial spirit that has characterized Maersk since the founding of the company. However, more importantly, this vessel is a very real proof point that when we as an industry unite through determined efforts and partnerships, a tangible and optimistic path toward a sustainable future emerges. This new green vessel is the breakthrough we needed, but we still have a long way to go before we make it all the way to zero,” Clerc added.

He also voiced his excitement about the followership within the container shipping industry with regard to the adoption of methanol as a greener fuel choice as there are more than 100 methanol-powered container vessels ordered by various companies – all dedicated to climate neutrality trajectory.

“The strong and rapid involvement from the industry is essential to accelerate the innovation and adoption of new technologies. This is fundamentally required to meet our goals,” he noted.

It’s here. It’s reality.

“This is exemplary action by our partner A.P. Moller – Maersk. They are showing the world it’s possible and inspiring other shipping companies to follow their lead. This is an extraordinary real-life example of green shipping, and at the same time, it reminds us of developments that need to take place in order for this first-mover action to be followed by industry wide up-scaling,” said Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, commenting on the ship’s naming ceremony.

“Most importantly, we need fuel producers to start ramping up investments and we need the IMO community to succeed in implementing the newly agreed updated GHG strategy,” continued Bo Cerup-Simonsen.

Ursula von der Leyen: Four years ago a net-zero shipping sector was a distant dream

The highlight of the ceremony was the presence of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who served as the godmother of the vessel. Madam President played a pivotal role in including shipping in the European Green Deal, and her participation underscored the global significance of the event.

“Four years ago, when I took office, the idea of a net-zero European shipping sector seemed like a distant dream. Something crucial was missing to spark significant investments in eco-friendly technologies. We needed clarity and a defined path to embark on this journey. In 2019, the European Commission stepped up and introduced the European Green Deal, offering a clear vision for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent. This initiative came with binding legislation, endorsed by all 27 member states, creating the much-needed predictability for industry leaders to act,” the president said.

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When running on methanol at sea, the feeder saves up to 100 tons of CO2 on a daily basis when compared to running the vessel on conventional fuel, and when you look at the greenhouse gas impact the fuel that we are currently using provides a reduction of about 65% compared to conventional fuels, according to Maersk.

The potential is to go up to 95% depending on how the methanol is produced.

The ship’s maiden voyage has been fuelled by green methanol by Dutch OCI Global.

Moving forward, the ship will receive green methanol from Equinor in the port of Rotterdam until European Energy starts producing e-methanol from its new plant, which is set to be commissioned in the second half of 2024.

The ship is slated to start operating at the beginning of October, bunkering in the port of Rotterdam every five weeks.

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By the end of this decade, Maersk anticipates that 25 of their vessels will be sailing on green methanol, saving a remarkable 2.75 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. Notably, these green fuels will be produced in Denmark, using solar power, a remarkable achievement that reflects the need for vision and leadership in driving change.

Von der Leyen commended Maersk’s leadership in embracing the transition to cleaner fuels and highlighted the economic opportunities that come with ecological responsibility. She reiterated the need for global collaboration and robust regulatory frameworks to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices in the shipping industry.

This transformation is not only about transitioning to cleaner fuels but also about reshaping the economy of the future.

The European Green Deal has brought together political ambition, public investment, and private innovation, and the Laura Maersk vessel stands as a testament to this collaborative effort, the President of the European Commission pointed out.

As explained, the next crucial step is securing green fuels at scale. By 2030, the European Union aims to produce and import 20 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen annually, driven by the increasing deployment of renewable energy sources. This shift will pave the way for more investment in alternative fuels like green hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol, von der Leyen noted.

“We are already deploying renewable energy like never before. This year for the first time in Europe we generated more electricity from wind and sun then from gas,” Madam President said.

Recognizing that shipping is a global endeavor, efforts to reduce emissions extend beyond Europe. Collaborative work within the International Maritime Organization has led to ambitious global actions. The agreement reached in July to cut the carbon footprint of international maritime transport is a significant milestone, the Commission President continued.

It must now be coupled with a robust global pricing mechanism for greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime sector, which will protect pioneers like Maersk and inspire others to join the journey towards sustainable high-seas travel.”

“In conclusion, Laura Maersk and this moment symbolize Europe’s dedication to leading the fight against climate change. We are turning a generational task into a new growth strategy.”

As we sail into the future, our only limit is the horizon. We are confident in our destination, and with sailing ships like this, we are on a clear course. We rely on the collective efforts of industry leaders and innovators to take the necessary action,” she concluded.

As the ceremony concluded, it left a lasting impression on all those in attendance, reminding them of the urgency of our shared responsibility to protect the planet for future generations.

In the words of primatologist Jane Goodall, “We have not inherited this planet from our parents; rather, we are borrowing it from our children.”