First-ever cargo ship powered by green methanol begins its journey

It's part of Maersk's ambitious plans to decarbonize by 2040.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Maersk's methanol ship.jpg
Maersk's methanol ship.


The first-ever container to run on green methanol began its journey this week. The cargo ship is powered by methane captured from food waste at landfills.

This is according to a report by Fast Company published on Monday.

Maersk, the ship’s owner, has made a commitment to only buy new ships that can use green fuels. It ordered the methanol ship two years ago.

Another 25 of these types of ships are on order, and older ships are being retrofitted to use the same fuel. By the end of the decade, a quarter of Maersk’s ocean cargo ships will be using green fuels.

The ship is now sailing from South Korea to Denmark.

Green methanol has the potential to cut a ship’s emissions by 65-70 percent. This is a significant amount globally, considering that the shipping industry is responsible for roughly the same amount of emissions as the airline industry: approximately one ton of CO2 emissions per year.

Not completely emissions-free

There is a catch, however: green methanol does not fully eliminate all emissions. However, urgent action is needed by all if we are to meet the Paris climate goals. As such, Maersk chose to implement green methanol as an alternative fuel because it currently works efficiently.

“There’s this fear, I think, of making the wrong bet or getting it wrong somehow,” Morten Bo Christiansen, who leads decarbonization at Maersk, told an audience at the TED Countdown Summit last week, according to Fast Company

“And of course, in the ideal world, we would spend a decade figuring out all the pros and cons and what is best. But we need to address this problem now.” 

Maersk wants to reach net zero by 2040 and plans to use retrofits as well as new ships to do so.

“We have set an ambitious net-zero emissions target for 2040 across the entire business and have taken a leading role in decarbonising logistics. Retrofitting of engines to run on methanol is an important lever in our strategy. With this initiative, we wish to pave the way for future scalable retrofit programs in the industry and thereby accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to green fuels. Ultimately, we want to demonstrate that methanol retrofits can be a viable alternative to new buildings,” said in a press release last month Leonardo Sonzio head of fleet management and technology at Maersk.

“In 2021, we ordered the world’s first methanol-enabled container vessel following a commitment to the principle of only ordering newbuilt vessels that can sail on green fuels. Concurrently, we have explored the potential in retrofitting existing vessels with dual-fuel methanol engines.”