First ULCV Methanol Container Ship Sets Sail

First ULCV Methanol Container Ship Sets Sail
April 26, 2024 Hannah Marshallsay

The world’s largest container ship powered by green fuel is currently on its maiden voyage from Asia to Europe, starting from the Port of Colombo to Felixstowe, Hamburg, Antwerp, London, Le Havre, and back to Asia.

The global shipping industry is increasingly prioritising sustainability, exemplified by the ‘Ane Maersk,’ the first ultra large container vessel (ULCV) powered by eco-friendly fuel methanol. Capable of carrying nearly eight times the cargo of its predecessor, the ‘Laura Maersk,’ which debuted as the world’s first methanol dual-fuel container ship in September 2023.

Embarking on its maiden journey from the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea, on 9 February, the Ane Maersk set sail for Ningbo, China. Subsequently, it will call at a total of 14 ports, including Ningbo, Shanghai, Nansha, Yantian, Tanjung Pelepas, Colombo, Tangiers, Felixstowe, Hamburg, Antwerp, London, Le Havre, Tangiers, Khalifa Seaport, Jebel Ali (Dubai), and Ningbo once again.

Earlier this month, the Ane Maersk became the first containership to arrive in the Port of Hamburg that runs on climate-friendly methanol. For Antwerp port, it was the methanol bunkering for a deep-sea vessel completed in European waters.

New Ship Design

The Ane Maersk features an innovative ship design with the bridge superstructure positioned at the very front of the bow. This adjustment was necessary to offset the reduction in cargo space resulting from the larger tanks required for methanol storage. Methanol possesses approximately half the energy content of fossil oil, thus necessitating roughly double the fuel quantity.

Currently, the Ane Maersk operates on environmentally friendly bio-methanol, emitting approximately two-thirds less greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels (ultra-low sulfur oil). Future advancements, such as synthetically produced e-methanol, could potentially reduce emissions by over 90%. Due to the limited global availability of green methanol, the Ane Maersk and its sister ships have the capability to utilize alternative fuels, such as bio-diesel or ultra-low sulfur fuel oil (ULSFO), thanks to their dual-fuel technology.

Production facilities for e-methanol are presently under construction, with the first plant located near Aabenraa in Denmark, just across the German border. Maersk is set to receive green e-methanol from this European Energy production line, scheduled to commence operations this summer.

First Bunker Operation in Europe

Bunkering refers to the process of supplying fuel and/or gasoil to power a ship’s propulsion system. On April 1, 2024, the Ane Maersk bunkered 4,300 tons of green methanol and 1,375 tons of biodiesel during its port stay at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. This marked the first methanol bunkering involving an ocean-going vessel at the port.

Two barges were dispatched to transfer 4,300 tons of green methanol onto the Ane Maersk, while another barge delivered 1,375 tons of biodiesel. The bunkering process was seamlessly integrated into the vessel’s port stay, conducted simultaneously with cargo onloading and offloading. 

The successful bunkering operation represented a significant milestone in the Port of Antwerp-Bruges’ ambition to become a multi fuel port, offering various climate-neutral fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia, methane, and methanol for bunkering. Additionally, the port has the capability to store climate-neutral fuels for industrial cluster use and distribution inland. In light of the energy transition, where hydrogen carriers like methanol, ammonia, and methane are expected to play crucial roles, numerous tank storage terminals have expanded capacity or are planning to do so. 

The CEO of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, said: “As the fifth largest bunkering port in the world, we are committed to playing a pioneering role in the integration of climate neutral fuels to the bunker market. Port of Antwerp-Bruges will provide facilities where possible, make both platforms multifuel ready and is itself committed to making its fleet greener by using alternative fuels.”

Future of Green Energy Ships

Ane Maersk is the first of Maersk’s 18 large methanol-enabled vessels that will be delivered between 2024 and 2025 and world’s second methanol-enabled container vessel. The successful maiden voyage of the first ultra large container vessel (ULCV) powered by green fuel suggests that the industry has passed a milestone on its way to mainstream adoption.

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