Shipping industry emissions account for roughly three percent of total global CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, recently, an emerging trend of green-fuel container ships has proven to be an effective strategy for the decarbonization of this vital sector.

Laura Maersk: The world’s first green methanol fueled container ship

Since August 2023, Laura Maersk – the world’s first large container ship powered entirely by green methanol – has been successfully sailing the seas as it marks a significant step toward environmental sustainability within the maritime industry. This pioneering vessel represents a breakthrough achievement.

A.P. Moller-Maersk, the shipping giant behind Laura Maersk, has demonstrated its dedication to building a greener fleet by ordering eight additional methanol-powered vessels with larger capacities of 17,200 TEU. These ships should arrive between 2024-2025.

Green-Methanol Fueled Ships planned to be built

Shipping companies have also joined the green wave, with multiple green-fuel container ships currently under construction:

Maersk green-fuel container ships

Danish company Maersk announced on Tuesday that it is purchasing eight large ocean vessels capable of running on carbon-neutral methanol fuel manufactured by Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea. Maersk stated that each vessel would carry approximately 16,000 TEU- totaling $1.4 billion in total cost. Each vessel reportedly cost an estimated price tag of $175 million, totaling a grand total cost of $1.4 billion for all eight ships combined.

MSC green-fuel container ships

Two 16,000 TEU methanol-powered ships are being constructed for MSC and will be delivered as early as 2025.

CMA CGM green-fuel container ships

CMA CGM has ordered four 15,000 TEU methanol-powered vessels, beginning their deliveries by 2025.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) and Japan Marine United Corporation (JMU) green-fuel container ships

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) and Japan Marine United Corporation (JMU) have entered into an agreement to jointly develop and construct the world’s first ammonia-fueled large container ship by 2026.

Evergreen green-fuel container ships

Evergreen Marine Corp, the Taiwanese giant, is conducting feasibility studies on ammonia-powered vessels that could represent potential investments for future investments.

Beyond Methanol and Ammonia: Other Green Fuels

Methanol and ammonia lead the green revolution; however, other technologies are also being considered:

GoodFuels, a biofuel technology developer and container ship operator, has successfully demonstrated the technology on a smaller vessel.

Wind-assisted propulsion

This technology utilizes wind power to supplement ship engines and decrease fuel consumption, thus significantly cutting consumption costs. Many companies are working towards developing and implementing wind-assisted propulsion systems.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Still relatively in its infancy, hydrogen fuel cell technology could revolutionize maritime operations with zero-emission propulsion technology.

Challenges and Opportunities

Transitioning to green-fueled container ships poses several hurdles, such as the availability and affordability of alternative fuels, infrastructure development needs and regulatory changes required for compliance.

However, their potential advantages are great. Green-fueled ships could help reduce shipping’s carbon footprint and support global climate goals while simultaneously improving air quality in port cities.

The rise of eco-friendly container ships marks a watershed moment in maritime industry sustainability efforts. Laura Maersk’s success as the first ship powered entirely by green methanol has opened the way for other companies to invest in technologies like ammonia and biofuels for use as cleaner fuel sources.

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