ZDS: Ane Maersk’s maiden call to Hamburg shows urgent need for future-proofing German ports

Following the maiden call of Ane Maersk, the ‘world’s first’ large methanol-powered containership, in Hamburg, the Association of German Seaport Operators (ZDS) has highlighted the need for significant investments in the country’s ports to ensure a successful energy transition in Germany.

Courtesy of HHM / Hasenpusch Productions

The 16,000 TEU containership docked at the Eurogate Container Terminal Hamburg in the morning hours of March 28, 2024, for the first time, the Port of Hamburg said.

Owned by Danish shipping giant Maersk, Ane Maersk is the first of Maersk’s eighteen large methanol-enabled vessels scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2025. It is the world’s second methanol-enabled container vessel.

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The boxship is currently on its maiden voyage from Asia to Europe, starting from the Port of Colombo to Felixstowe, Hamburg, Antwerp, London, Le Havre, and back to Asia. Last week, the 350-meter-long ship also made its inaugural call at Tanger Med Port Complex in Morocco.

Ane Maersk has become the first containership to arrive in the Port of Hamburg that runs on climate-friendly methanol.

“The call of the Ane Maersk in the port of Hamburg impressively demonstrates that the maritime industry is making rapid strides towards climate neutrality. This also includes the Port of Hamburg, which is also working intensively on becoming climate neutral,” Axel Mattern, Board Member for Port of Hamburg Marketing, pointed out.

Specifically, Ane Maersk has a new ship design with the bridge superstructure at the very front of the bow. This was necessary to compensate for the cargo space lost due to the larger tanks required. Methanol only has around half as much energy content as fossil oil. Therefore, approximately twice as much fuel is required. 

The boxship currently runs on green bio-methanol and therefore emits around two thirds less greenhouse gases than with fossil fuel. With synthetically produced e-methanol, emissions savings can be well over 90% in the future.

Due to the limited availability of green methanol worldwide, Ane Maersk and its sister ships can also run on bio-diesel or ultra low sulfur fuel oil (ULSFO) thanks to dual-fuel technology.

Such alternative fuels-enabled ships rely on the ports having the necessary infrastructure and sufficient quantities of fuel.

The National Port Strategy, which the German government adopted last week to make ports fit for the future, describes the ports as ‘pioneers of climate-neutral shipping’.

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Infrastructure operators are required to create storage and bunkering capacities for alternative fuels at an early stage. The federal and state governments should ensure uniform nationwide framework conditions for dealing with new types of fuel, according to ZDS.

Without sufficient investment in German ports, there will be no propulsion transition in shipping and no energy transition in Germany,” Angela Titzrath, President of ZDS, commented in connection with the first call of the methanol freighter Ane Maersk.

“Ane Maersk shows that we have to implement the National Port Strategy quickly.”

“The National Port Strategy envisages market leadership for German ports in technologies for transport, handling, storage and bunkering of sustainable energy sources and renewable fuels,” Titzrath added.

“At the same time, we have to equip the ports throughout Germany for the energy transition, ensure security of supply in the country and handle large parts of German foreign trade. All of this as efficiently and digitally as possible. These comprehensive tasks require a joint effort, which requires more federal support.”

To date, however, there has been no federal and state funding concept for upgrading the port infrastructure to prepare German seaports for the energy transition and ships like the Ane Maersk. The lack of financial resources is creating an investment backlog, which, in addition to the climate-neutral transformation of shipping, also endangers the energy transition in Germany.

On one hand, energy sources such as LNG, methanol or hydrogen are imported through the ports, and on the other hand, components for offshore wind farms are shipped. Both are only possible if port facilities and hinterland connections are adapted, regulations and approval procedures are optimized and large-capacity and heavy-duty transport are made easier.

“During the 2022/2023 energy crisis, LNG terminals were approved and the corresponding infrastructure in ports and hinterland was completed at a record pace. The success of the energy transition in Germany and the transformation to climate-friendly shipping requires the same level of political will to make decisions, accompanied by sufficient financial resources to be able to implement the necessary expansion and conversion projects,” ZDS President concluded.

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