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Shipping giant Maersk orders 8 'carbon-neutral' vessels

Landmark order will support next-generation technology that uses 'green' methanol and that could be delivered by early 2024.

Maersk ship in Miami

A Maersk ship next to Miami skyscrapers with blue cloudy sky

In a major step forward for the decarbonization of shipping, Maersk has announced plans to purchase eight container vessels that can run on "green" methanol and deliver goods for the growing number of firms around the world that have set net zero-emission targets.

In a statement published on its website, the world's largest shipping company said the ocean-going vessels, which can be powered by carbon-neutral methanol or traditional bunker fuel, would generate roughly 1 million of annual CO2 savings by replacing older, more emissions-intensive ships. The order establishes Maersk as the first container shipping company to order large carbon-neutral vessels capable of sailing on the high seas.

The vessel order, placed with South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Heavy Industries, also includes an option for the shipping giant to order four additional vessels in 2025.

Maersk said that more than half its 200 largest customers had set or were in the process of setting ambitious science-based climate targets for their supply chains and that it was working with major customers, including Unilever, H&M, Signify, Amazon and Proctor and Gamble, to deliver and scale up zero-carbon ocean transport capacity to meet their needs.

This is a firm signal to fuel producers that sizable market demand for the green fuels of the future is emerging at speed.

The eight vessels, which will each have the capacity for 16,000 containers, are expected to be delivered by early 2024, according to the update. They will be 10-15 percent more expensive than bunker fuel container ships, each costing $175 million.

Soren Skou, CEO of AP Moller Maersk, emphasized that shipping companies needed to act urgently to decarbonize the sector. "This order proves that carbon-neutral solutions are available today across container vessel segments and that Maersk stands committed to the growing number of our customers who look to decarbonize their supply chains," he said. "Further, this is a firm signal to fuel producers that sizable market demand for the green fuels of the future is emerging at speed."

Maersk said its intention was to operate the vessels on sustainable bio-methanol or carbon-neutral e-methanol "as soon as possible," but noted that limited global supplies of the fuels would mean running the ships on low carbon fuels from day one would be a challenge.

Leyla Ertur, head of sustainability at H&M, applauded Maersk for its new fleet order. "Maersk's investment in large vessels operating on green methanol is an important innovative step supporting H&M Group's climate goals within International Freight, and we are proud to take part in this pioneer journey," she said.

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