Maersk: We need to act faster to break this chicken and egg limbo

Image credit: World Economic Forum

The transition towards zero-carbon fuels in the shipping industry needs to be accelerated, putting a greater focus on the viable solutions already on the market and skipping transitional solutions.

Image by World Economic Forum

These were the messages of A.P. Moller Maersk’s Executive Vice President Henriette Hallberg Thygesen during a session on climate Action Partnerships, hosted yesterday by the World Economic Forum.

“We need to move faster than we have done so far. There are already solutions that we can pursue as an industry. Therefore, we need to go from talk into an execution focus. In a debate about green fuels we often hear that we don’t have the full overview or technologically viable carbon-neutral fuels and that we need more research and development (R&D). But we do have a possible solution in sight that could have long-term viability,” she said.

Thygesen believes industry stakeholders should stop sitting on the sidelines waiting for a major breakthrough and pass on the investment in transitional fuels like LNG.

Instead, Maersk has decided to jump right into the development of zero-carbon fuels which will be long-term solutions – the first step being renewable methanol.

To remind, the liner major plans to launch the world’s first carbon-neutral liner vessel in 2023, seven years ahead of the initial 2030-ambition.

The vessel will be a methanol feeder with a capacity of around 2,000 TEU and it would be deployed in one of Maersk’s 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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“The two primary challenges we see are the need to secure timely, adequate, and affordable production of these new fuels and the infrastructure development necessary to ensure that we can have the industry access to these fuels,” she added.

In order to scale up the use of the new green fuels, the company thinks there is a need to develop new engine types for all types of vessels. This should be in combination with the development of large-scale power to X technology for producing e-methanol, e-ammonia, and bio methanol, and finally, the technology enabling safe bunkering and handling of these new fuels.

“We see methanol as a first step on the new fuels exploration front and hopefully ammonia will be one of the options for the next steps. We, as an industry, have to take some bold decisions in order to move forward and indeed break this chicken and egg limbo,” she went on to say.

Maersk agrees there is a big role to play for governments and regulators in the process of creating the right incentives and ensuring a regulatory framework that not only pushes but also stimulates the faster development of carbon-neutral fuels and required infrastructure.

“The governments need to regularly monitor what is happening in the industry in order to facilitate and support the viable solutions and timely regulatory baking will be needed along the way,” she pointed out.

“We have made initial commitments and we are now highly dependent on the supply and the infrastructure to follow along. This is also an invitation from our side to join us in an exciting future market development where hopefully first movers will also have an influence on the market standards.”