Finnish startup company Norsepower installed its rotor sail technology on the Maersk Pelican tanker, Aug. 29, 2018, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in the first such installation on a tanker as the shipping industry tries new solutions in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Maersk Pelican oil tanker is testing Norsepower’s 30 meter (98 foot) deck-mounted spinning columns, which convert wind into thrust based on an idea first floated nearly a century ago. Transport’s contribution to earth-warming emissions are the subject of investigations as negotiators gather in Katowice, Poland, for U.N. COP24 climate talks. (Casper Hariot/Maersk Tankers via AP)

CAPE TOWN – Aimed at accelerating the transition to carbon neutral shipping, Maersk announced on Thursday its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. 

To achieve this goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030, and an acceleration in new innovations and adaption of new technology is required.

Climate is one of the most important issues in the world, and carrying about 80 percent of global trade, the shipping industry is vital to finding solutions. By now, Maersk´s relative CO₂ emissions have been reduced by 46 percent since 2007, about 9 percent more than the industry average.

As world trade and thereby shipping volumes will continue to grow, efficiency improvements on the current fossil based technology can only keep shipping emissions at current levels but not reduce them significantly or eliminate them.

“The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” says Søren Toft, chief operating officer at AP Moller - Maersk.

Maersk said it was putting its efforts towards solving problems specific to maritime transport, as it calls for different solutions than automotive, rail and aviation. 

“The yet to come electric truck is expected to be able to carry max 2 TEU and is projected to run 800km per charging. In comparison, a container vessel carrying thousands of TEU sailing from Panama to Rotterdam makes around 8800km. With short battery durability and no charging points along the route, innovative developments are imperative.”

Given the 20-25-year lifetime of a vessel, it is now time to join forces and start developing the new type of vessels that will be crossing the seas in 2050.

“The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial. We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonised solutions. Over the last four years, we have invested around USD 1bn and engaged 50+ engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions. Going forward we cannot do this alone” adds Søren Toft.

Research & Development is key to take the industry away from today’s fossil based technology and by setting this ambitious target, Maersk hopes to generate a pull towards researchers, technology developers, investors, cargo owners and legislators that will activate strong industry involvement, co-development, and sponsorship of sustainable solutions that we are yet to see in the maritime industry.

In 2019, Maersk is planning to initiate open and collaborative dialogue with all possible parties to tackle together one of the most important issues in the world; the climate change.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE