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Maersk Pushes to Decarbonize the Shipping Industry

The shipping industry, which delivers 80 percent of consumer goods, accounts for 3 percent—and counting—of global carbon emissions, and A.P. Moller-Maersk, for one, wants to nip that number in the bud.

The world’s largest container ship carrier has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, but it has already begun spearheading efforts to clean up shipping routes, forming a coalition last October with Copenhagen University, H&M Group, Levi Strauss, Marks & Spencer and others to explore the environmental and commercial viability of replacing carbon-intensive heavy fuel oil with a less-polluting blend of lignin and ethanol known as LEO. The following month, the company started piloting a 600-kilowatt marine battery system to improve the efficiency of a vessel’s onboard electrical systems, maintaining its auxiliary generators at a more optimal load and turning them off when they’re not needed, therefore reducing overall fuel consumption.

In July, Maersk’s A.P. Møller Foundation poured 400 million Danish kroner, or nearly $64 million, to establish the nonprofit Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, a collaboration with companies like ABS, Cargill and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop new fuel types and technologies. An international, highly specialized and cross-disciplinary team, Maersk said at the time, will collaborate to “create overviews of decarbonization pathways, accelerate the development of selected decarbonizing fuels and powering technologies, and support the establishment of regulatory, financial and commercial means to enable transformation.”

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“The founding partners and the A.P. Møller Foundation share a long-term ambition to decarbonize the shipping industry,” said Søren Skou, CEO of Maersk and a board member of the new center, in a statement. “The establishment of the center is a quantum leap toward realizing that ambition. This joint initiative will fast-track the maturation of solutions and strengthen the basis for decision-making among industry players and regulators, and hence accelerate investments and implementation of new technologies.”

Maersk has also put its money where its mouth is, announcing in February that it has secured a new sustainability-linked revolving credit facility of $5 billion through a syndicate of 26 selected banks. The credit margin under the facility will be adjusted based on the company’s progress toward its target of reducing CO₂ emissions per cargo moved by 60 percent by 2030, a goal that is markedly more ambitious than the International Maritime Organization’s target of 40 percent by 2030.

“We are determined to reach our ultimate target of becoming fully carbon neutral by 2050 and this agreement serves as another enabler for us to deliver on that ambition,” Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of fleet and strategic brands at Maersk, said in a statement. “Given the lifespan of our fleet, we need to find new and sustainable solutions to propel our vessels within the next 10 years. To realize this ambitious commitment, we are partnering with researchers, regulators, technology developers, customers, energy providers and now, banks.”

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