Container Shipping Insights The 'mega' trend to continue
Comment of the Day

April 26 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Container Shipping Insights The 'mega' trend to continue

Here is a section from a JPMorgan report focusing on shipping costs.

Global liners are stepping up de-carbonization efforts and experimenting with alternative fuels
To achieve the industry target, many global liners such as A.P. Moller Maersk (viewed an industry bellwether) are stepping up de-carbonization efforts, recently unveiled plans to fast-track its de-carbonization efforts, with a target to put the world’s first vessel powered by carbon-neutral fuel into operation in 2023, seven years ahead of its original schedule. Specifically, Maersk will install its smaller feeder vessels (capacity of around 2,000 TEUs) with dual fuel technology, power them using alternative fuels including methanol (produced from plant waste) while retaining the option to use VLSFO if necessary. Maersk is also currently experimenting with other alternative fuels including ammonia. Looking ahead, Maersk targets to operate more methanol-fueled vessels in the future and expects methanol and ammonia to emerge as more viable future fuel options.

Adoption of new technology and alternative fuels will take time to achieve commercial feasibility. There are inherent limitations towards adopting alternative fuels. Referencing remarks made by Mr. Morten Bo Christiansen (Maersk head of de-carbonization), methanol has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15% vs conventional marine fuels while enjoying other advantages including having well-established infrastructure and manageable vessel retrofitting cost. Having said that, methanol has inherent limitations including low energy density and certain safety-related challenges. With respect to ammonia, Maersk expects ammonia to be an ideal replacement from a net zero carbon perspective, but overall technology capability remains at a nascent stage and no vessels today are equipped to utilize this fuel type. Maersk also takes a contrarian view compared to its peers and does not view Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a viable alternative, given its upstream and onboard emissions.

Eoin Treacy's view

The IMO 2020 regulations on emissions for the global shipping sector took more than a decade to agree and finally to implement. That was emblematic of an era when there was some commitment to reducing emissions but no real sense of urgency and where industry lobby groups were given priority. Today, the situation could not be more different. Shipping companies see the future of regulation and taxation and expect to be able to pass on green premiums to customers. That will put an additional cost on everything and represents an even bigger tax on global activity than an oil price spike because it is permanent in nature.

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