News ID: 80483 |
Publish Date: 09:43 - 22 February 2020

Major carriers signal a shift in mindset to tackle emissions

Europe's big four carriers are lobbying regulators to support a controversial $5bn R&D fund. The multi-nationals argue that collective action is necessary and plan to join forces to create a new industry landscape.

Maersk, CMA CGM, MSC and Hapag-Lloyd say they cannot go at it alone. They plan to collaborate with each other to push the climate agenda.


COMPETITORS in just about every other aspect, Europe’s biggest carriers are acknowledging they will need each other to help the decarbonisation agenda and are now lobbying regulators to support a global initiative on research and development.

Sustainability and regulatory chiefs from Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd, four of the five largest containership operators globally, sat together for a rare common outing during an event at European Shipping Week, during which they pushed for co-ordinated R&D efforts through a new international body.

While the use of clean fuels will ultimately become part of the competition as well, with biofuel trials and individual sustainability and R&D projects already running, the four carriers think they could only do so much behind closed doors.

“We are not very good at collaborating with people, in all honesty,” Maersk director of regulatory affairs Simon Bergulf admitted. “We have not been really good at that.” 

The Danish company has been very effective with its own sustainability efforts, though, and has taken on a leadership role in the field, he argued.

Maersk was the first major company to demand carbon-neutral vessels by 2030 and claims to have already spent billions on sustainability R&D over the past few years. It will also focus on alcohol, biomethane and ammonia and wants to further narrow down its choice to a single fuel in 2023.

“But what we have done is drying up. If it’s drying up for us, it’s drying up for everyone. So we can’t continue to do that,” he said.

Hapag-Lloyd environmental management director Wolfgang Guntermann, whose firm has committed to slashing its CO2 emissions per teu-km by 20% by 2020 compared to 2006, said sharing ideas with its rivals would have been inconceivable some decades ago.

“It is not a matter of competition, it is a matter of jointly developing these issues,” he said, admitting this is a whole new ballgame for the rivals.

CMA CGM sustainability chief Guilhem Isaac Georges also said it is essential to accelerate R&D to get to zero emissions vessels.

“Betting today on technology to break through in 2035 to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 seems to us very risky. That is why I insist that we have to take these decisions today,” he said. 

The French company recently partnered up with hydrogen tech firm Energy Observe to share resources and expertise.

MSC Group executive vice president for maritime policy and government affairs Bud Darr admitted that despite the size of its firm, which also owns cruise ships, it could never produce the necessary R&D breakthroughs on its own, and the company is happy to pay its part in the collective effort.

“But to bring together the whole community really is going to take a  collaborative effort and sharing the results of what has developed through this fund,” he said.

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