WATCH: World’s 1st methanol-powered containership reaches final destination

The world’s first container vessel powered by green methanol has arrived in Copenhagen after completing a 21,500 km maiden trip from Ulsan, South Korea.

Image credit: Maersk

The 2,100 TEU boxship was assisted into the port of Copenhagen by Svitzer’s tugs and the container ship docked in the Toldboden area of the Copenhagen harbor near the headquarters of A.P. Moller – Maersk, where it will be officially named during a ceremony scheduled for tomorrow.

 Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, will be the godmother of Maersk’s new feeder vessel.

“What seemed like a dream two years ago is now a reality. This is proof that we can make this the decade of action,” Maersk said.

Maersk celebrated the arrival of the vessel in a live-streamed event joined by the ship’s first captain Brian Sørensen, Head of Fleet Management and technology Leonardo Sonzio, and Chief Engineer Heino Søgaard Nielsen

“It’s always exciting to take over a new vessel,” Captain Brian Sørensen said during the live event, explaining how it’s only when you take over the vessel from the yard that one becomes really ‘familiar with it.’

As explained by Sørensen, the crew had a lot of training and preparations for the ship’s bunkering operations to make sure all safety measures were in place when handling methanol, which is a flashpoint fuel that can emit flames invisible by daylight.

Some of these measures include extra firefighting equipment, fixed firefighting foam in the methanol room, bunker stations, and the bottom of the engine room, breakaway couplings on the bunkering hoses as well as CCT cameras on the bunker station so the crew doesn’t have to be physically present there during bunkering to avoid any exposure of the crew to the poisonous gas.

A methanol-powered containership needs to use two-two and a half times more methanol to obtain the same power when compared to conventional fuels due to its lower calorific value.

As explained by the captain, the two methanol tanks have been positioned just in front of the engine room, and outside this safety zone, the ship can be viewed as ‘a normal vessel’ which can carry dangerous cargo like other container vessels.

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The Captain was available to deliver some insights on the maiden journey as the vessel had its first crew change in the Port of Rotterdam, two weeks ago, a stop that marked Europe’s first methanol bunkering.

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The maiden voyage has provided a real operational experience for Maersk seafarers handling the new engines and using methanol as fuel, as the company prepares to receive a fleet of new, large ocean-going methanol-enabled ships next year.

Speaking on the biggest difference when operating this pioneering vessel, the Chief Engineer, Heino Søgaard Nielsen, said it was having two fuels on one vessel, which means extra fuel systems and piping to monitor.

Nielsen added that it was ‘ a steep learning curve for all engineers onboard’ to learn how to operate the methanol engines and get familiar with the system, however, he praised the crew for their strenuous efforts to make the maiden voyage a success.

The ship is manned currently by 20 people, but the safe manning is a crew of 14 members. Maerk representatives said that the company has additional crew members to assist in additional engineering required for the pioneering voyage.

The 2,100 TEU container vessel will stay in the Toldboden area of the Copenhagen harbor for about a week and be the focal point of several events and activities related to the shipping industry’s effort to decarbonize.

Maersk disclosed earlier that the feeder will be 172 meters long and will sail in the network of Sealand Europe, a Maersk subsidiary, on the Baltic shipping route between Northern Europe and the Bay of Bothnia.

Methanol as fuel

The vessel’s use of green methanol represents a groundbreaking approach to reducing the carbon footprint of maritime transportation.

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, Sonzio said.

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.

Both Maersk and its Svitzer arm have identified methanol as marine fuel as the central part of their decarbonization strategies.

A.P. Moller – Maersk and Svitzer have both set ambitious targets to lower emissions. Svitzer aims to lower carbon intensity by 50% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2040. With a multi-pronged fuel strategy, we now have more than 60 vessels running on low CO2-emission HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil), and we have made a firm commitment to bring methanol to the marine services industry through building the world’s first methanol fuel cell tug,” Svitzer said.

“Big congratulations to Maersk on reaching this significant milestone in their efforts to respond to climate change. At Svitzer, we look forward to assisting many more vessels running on green methanol into the global ports in the years to come.”

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.

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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.