World's first carbon neutral cargo ship to be launched by 2023

The world's first carbon-neutral cargo ship will be launched in 2023 - seven years ahead of schedule, Danish shipping giant Maersk said on Wednesday. The shipping giant is moving up its plans to go completely carbon-neutral by 2050, announcing a vessel capable of carrying 2,000 cargo containers that can run on fuels produced from renewable electricity and waste carbon dioxide.  But sourcing new green fuels and proving they are actually eco-friendly could be an issue.

Maersk aims to put the newly-built vessel into the water by 2023 and operate it on an intra-regional route. The e-methanol-powered ship will also be able to run on conventional biofuels and fuel oil, but the plan is to be as green as possible. "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," said Soren Skou, the Maersk CEO, who also pointed to the green plans of the shipper's high-profile clients.

Current emissions by industry type

The planned vessel will be towards the smaller size of cargo ships but the idea is to trial the technology and then deploy it on increasingly larger boats. One of the biggest challenges will be buying enough green fuel in the right place at the right time. "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, a Maersk executive.

Methanol is liquid at room temperature, unlike other potential shipping fuels like LNG and hydrogen, and has a much lower climate impact than diesel. But it also contains less energy than fossil fuel and is currently very expensive to produce. Faig Abbasov, a shipping expert with T&E, a clean mobility group, warned that "unfortunately, Maersk is betting on the wrong horse" and "ignoring basic science" by choosing methanol over hydrogen and ammonia.

"Any new fuel that relies on bio feedstock is by definition a dead-end as they cannot be scaled up.

There is simply not enough sustainable biofeedstock to meet the needs of the society," he told The Telegraph, adding that the CO2 used to produce e-methanol could be sourced from industrial processes that burn fossil fuels, undermining Maersk's green claims.

Economic Intelligence newsletter SUBSCRIBER (article)

Shippers will need to go greener in the coming years, especially in EU waters, because the sector is set to be included in the bloc's emissions trading scheme for the first time and hit with potentially costly bills for pollution permits.

Shipping produces about 2.5pc of the world's greenhouse gases and pollution levels are predicted to keep growing up to as much as 10pc without big changes.

You may also like...