By choice or regulation, the future of the maritime industry bends toward decarbonization.

The industry contributes (by one estimate) almost 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and depends on one of the dirtiest energy sources, bunker fuel. But cleaner alternatives are on the horizon for everyone. Companies that commit to decarbonization early have an opportunity to drive change instead of reacting to it.

The shipping industry is taking a large step in that direction as companies like Maersk order reduced-emission vessels and fuels. Maersk recognized its customers want to decarbonize their supply chains and ordered six additional large container vessels, with a nominal capacity of around 17,000 containers (TEU) each, which can sail on green methanol. It has now ordered 19 dual-fuel vessels that can operate on the cleaner fuel as it strives for net-zero emissions by 2040 across its range of business. COSCO and CMA-CGM have also ordered new-build vessels that can burn methanol instead of bunker fuel.

According to the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition, of which Maersk is a member, green e-methanol is a product of green hydrogen made with renewable electricity and CO2 captured from biomass-based industrial flues. It is a carbon-neutral fuel suitable for combustion engines, is relatively easy and safe to handle, and can be stored or “bunkered” using known infrastructure, and its ships can be refueled using bunker barges, as they are now. For smaller ships, battery-electric power is another developing option.

Shipping and other maritime companies that commit to reduced-carbon practices early send zero-emission fuel and engine producers and entrepreneurs the demand signals they need to ramp up production. Since reducing carbon emissions is both the right thing to do and an inevitable regulatory requirement, early adopters of all sizes can profoundly impact the short- and long-term prospects for a cleaner maritime industry.

This opinion article does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for ‎your situation, you should contact an attorney.

Sign up

Ideas & Insights