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CMA CGM steering LNG-powered ships to US

Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd also cranking up efforts to reduce carbon footprint

CMA CGM Chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé recently announced that the France-headquartered company would dedicate six liquefied natural gas-powered container ships to the U.S. market as part of its drive to propel the energy transition of the shipping industry.

The first of these six container ships, which each will have a capacity to carry 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) will be delivered in October. All six will be operational by the end of 2022, CMA CGM said. The vessels will be deployed on CMA CGM’s Pearl River Express (PRX) trade, which sails from China to the Port of Los Angeles.

The CMA CGM Group currently operates 12 LNG-powered container ships. It said the LNG fleet will grow to 32 vessels of various sizes by the end of next year. 

“This technology is one of the first steps towards achieving CMA CGM Group’s ambitious 2050 objective of carbon neutrality,” the ocean carrier said in last week’s announcement. 

The new ships will enable CMA CGM to provide customers with “effective solutions,” it said. “American customers will be able to choose to transport their goods using LNG, a new technology that helps to preserve air quality by eliminating almost all atmospheric pollutants.”

CMA CGM said in November 2017 Saadé “made the visionary decision to order nine 23,000-TEU vessels with an LNG power supply, a first in the history of the shipping industry for vessels of this size.” The first, the CMA CGM Jacques Saadé, made its maiden voyage in September 2020. The Jacques Saadé does not call the United States.

LNG, according to CMA CGM, “delivers a reduction of 99% in sulfur dioxide, 91% in particulate matter emissions and 92% in nitrogen oxide emissions, far surpassing the requirements of current regulations. LNG also provides an initial response to the challenge of tackling climate change. An LNG-powered vessel emits up to 20% less CO2 than fuel-powered systems.”

CMA CGM said time is of the essence for addressing the impact of climate change.

“The CMA CGM Group has always considered its business performance as intrinsically linked to its social and environmental performance,” it said, adding that the shipping line “is actively implementing measures to accelerate the industry’s energy transition and is significantly investing in research and development to design the clean vessels of the future.” 

“CMA CGM also continues to heavily invest in alternative solutions such as wind-assisted propulsion, hydrogen engines and green fuels. In 2019, the group became the world’s first shipping company to successfully test a biofuel comprising 20% recycled plant oil and forestry waste. It has pledged that alternative fuels will cover at least 10% of its consumption by 2023,” it said. 

Maersk’s ‘carbon-neutral fleet by 2050’

CMA CGM is not the only ocean carrier pledging to sail cleaner ships. Last month A.P. Møller – Maersk announced it would operate the world’s first carbon-neutral vessel by 2023, seven years ahead of its original target.

“A.P. Møller – Maersk’s ambition is to lead the way in decarbonizing global logistics. Our customers expect us to help them decarbonize their global supply chains, and we are embracing the challenge, working on solving the practical, technical and safety challenges inherent in the carbon neutral fuels we need in the future. Our ambition to have a carbon neutral fleet by 2050 was a moonshot when we announced in 2018. Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach,” CEO Soren Skou said in the announcement.

Maesk said that in 2023, its methanol-fueled feeder vessel will be on the water, “piloting a scalable carbon-neutral product to customers and offering fuel suppliers incentive to scale production of the fuels of the future.”

The feeder vessel will have a capacity of about 2,000 TEUs and operate regionally. While the vessel will be able to operate on standard very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO), it is intended to operate on carbon-neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol from its launch. 

Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, the CEO of Maersk’s fleet and strategic brands, said, “It will be a significant challenge to source an adequate supply of carbon-neutral methanol within our timeline to pioneer this technology. Our success relies on customers embracing this groundbreaking product and strengthened collaboration with fuel manufacturers, technology partners and developers to ramp up production fast enough. 

“We believe our aspiration to put the world’s first carbon-neutral liner vessel in operation by 2023 is the best way to kick-start the rapid scaling of carbon-neutral fuels we will need,” she said.

Maersk added that all future newbuilds will have dual fuel technology installed, enabling either carbon-neutral operations or use of VLSFO.

Don’t forget about Hapag-Lloyd

Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen said during a recent press conference that Maersk had given him a heads-up before announcing the timeline for its methanol-fueled feeder vessel launch. 

“I think it’s great that they take that initiative for something that’s carbon-neutral, although … for those ships that are going long-haul, it’s still more difficult,” Habben Jansen said. 

“We are also doing various things on that front,” he said. “We’ve converted one of our ships to LNG. We’ve ordered new ships that are running on LNG. We’ve been testing biofuel and also exploring all sorts of ways to bring down our footprint every year.”

Habben Jansen said Hapag-Lloyd will make an announcement on its own sustainability efforts during the second quarter of this year.

LNG bunkering

Ships powered by alternative fuels still require fueling. 

JAX LNG and TOTE Services announced last month that they had completed their first ship-to-ship LNG bunkering of a foreign-flagged vessel in Jacksonville, Florida.

Crews supplied about 450,000 gallons of LNG from the Clean Jacksonville, touted as North America’s first LNG bunker barge, to the vehicle carrier Siem Confucius at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

“Our modern and eco-friendly fleet helps reduce emissions while maximizing efficiency,” Siem Car Carriers President Jeffrey Campbell said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with other pioneers in the environmental conservation movement, including Volkswagen, JAX LNG, TOTE Services and JAXPORT, to reduce emissions while providing world-class service to the industry.”

TOTE Services operates the Clean Jacksonville and has successfully performed more than 150 bunkering operations for its own LNG-powered container ships.  

“This commercial bunkering is a major milestone for TOTE Services and a significant step toward supporting clean-fueled vessels operating around the world,” said TOTE Services President Jeff Dixon in the announcement. “TOTE Services’ significant experience with LNG — combined with our technical expertise and commitment to safety — allows us to assist other customers adopting use of the cleanest, most readily available fuel for shipping today and into the future.”

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.