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Morten Bo Christiansen

Vice President, Head of Decarbonisation, Maersk

Switching to greener fuels to power ocean-going cargo ships could reduce carbon emissions by millions of tonnes a year.

Companies shipping huge volumes of cargo across the globe are acutely aware of the carbon emissions related to the transportation sector.

While their activities are a crucial element of global trade and economies, tonnes of carbon finds its way into the atmosphere as a result. Estimates suggest global logistics emit 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, just by “moving stuff around.”

“That is simply not sustainable,” according to logistics boss Morten Bo Christiansen.

Cutting emissions

Yet steps to reduce this can have a significant impact, not only in helping the environment and reducing carbon emission for the cargo firms themselves, but also with a knock-on impact in supporting their customers and consumers cut carbon emissions.

Global end-to-end provider of logistics services A.P. Moller – Maersk directly emits 36 million tonnes of carbon a year, or around 60 million tonnes when considering indirect (Scope 3) emissions. Its 745-strong ocean-going fleet of ships burn 11 million tonnes of fuel oil or 80 million barrels every year. To put that into perspective, in 2021 global daily oil production was similarly 80 million barrels.

Christiansen, who is the company’s Head of Decarbonisation, leads a team charged with cutting those carbon emissions. “It’s not just ships,” he adds. “It is across all our business: trucking, rail, warehousing, airfreight and the steel for our ships.”

The only way forward

In 2018, the company set a vision for its fleet to be carbon neutral by 2050 but that timeline has now been brought forward a decade, to 2040.

“We are doing this because we feel a moral obligation to do so. Our company is part of the problem; just our ships emit more CO2 than the country we are headquartered in, Denmark,” he explains.

Estimates suggest global logistics emit 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, just by “moving stuff around.”

“It also means that we can have a large impact; we are part of the problem, and we want to be part of the solution. But it is also important to safeguard the relevance of our business going forward because if the global logistics sector does not perform it’s tasks without damaging the planet, our customers are going to find different solutions.”

Green methanol

Over the next 15 years, he points to making the transition toward running the Maersk fleet on green methanol and possibly green ammonia. Both fuels can be made in a “close-to-net-zero-way,” but green ammonia still has associated safety and environmental concerns, while the issue with green or climate neutral methanol is availability.

“There is no fuel on market,” says Christiansen. “It is a chicken and egg situation; no-one was making the fuel because there were no ships, and there are no ships because no-one is making fuel for them.”

Maersk is breaking that cycle and has ordered 13 ships – one 200m vessel and 12 ships that are 400m long and 60m wide – to run on green methanol, with the larger ships entering the fleet in 2024.

It has also signed six memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with companies to supply the 500,000 tonnes of green fuel a year to run the new vessels (the company wants 25% of the fuel it burns to be green by 2030).

Partnership approach

Solutions to cut its emissions in other areas of its operations involve piloting electric/hybrid trucking, using renewable energy in warehouses and terminals, using sustainable aviation fuel, and moving from diesel to electrified rail transport.

Recognising that some competitors have also begun exploring green methanol for ships, he believes his customers are coming under increasing pressure from consumers to deliver products with a smaller carbon footprint and will demand future supply chains are decarbonised.

By underlining the need for a partnership approach between customers, suppliers, competitors, and regulators to tackle emissions in the global logistics sector, he advocates a global greenhouse gas emissions price of at least USD 150 per tonne emitted on shipping to deliver a level playing field.

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