If you’ve ever seen a shipping container, there’s a good chance it has said “Maersk” on the side. That’s because the Danish group AP Moller Maersk is the world’s largest container shipping company and ships one out of every five containers worldwide. Those many football field sized, mini cities on water also run on bunker fuel, which is the leftover hot dog parts of the oil world, making its transportation significantly dirtier than even typical hydrocarbons like gas or even diesel.
But that’s set to change as the line pledges to go carbon neutral by 2050. And while that initially may sound like too little, too late there is a lot of good news to unpack here…
According to an FT report, Maersk’s COO heralded the news:
“We will have to abandon fossil fuels. We will have to find a different type of fuel or a different way to power our assets. This is not just another cost-cutting exercise. It’s far from that. It’s an existential exercise, where we as a company need to set ourselves apart. We’ve been able to absorb the last 10 years’ growth without adding to CO2 emissions. It’s a good starting point but it’s not enough . . . Not just governments and countries, but also companies and industries need to make a change. The maritime industry and Maersk need to take their responsibility,” he added.
Maersk spun off its Oil division earlier this year to Total. That in of itself rid the company of the footprint of about 600,000 barrels of oil a day.
Shipping is how 80% of the world’s trade is moved and it accounts for at least 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions. But getting boats to zero emissions won’t be easy. Some have suggested small nuclear plants on board while others believe a combination of factors including some batteries, solar, and some additional efficiencies and even sails or kites may get us to zero emissions.
While 2050 is more than a generation away, the 20-25 year life cycle of these ships means that Maersk must start building these zero carbon ships exclusively in 2025-2030 which is just 7-12 years off.
How big an impact will the transition have on global CO2 emissions? It is hard to tell where we’ll be in 2030 but it seems pretty obvious that there is going to be a lot more ocean for these ships to sail on by then. That COO above know what global warming is already doing to his ports. Global warming fears will likely have reached the point where companies and governments will force shipping to be carbon neutral. Maersk is likely just getting ahead of the obvious. If they wanted to be good global citizens, they could have started this in the 70s when the effects of climate change were confirmed.