AP Moller-Maersk has announced that is to introduce the first in a series of eight large ocean-going container vessels capable of being operated on carbon neutral methanol in the first quarter of 2024.

The vessels will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and have a nominal capacity of approximately 16,000 containers. The agreement with HHI includes an option for four additional vessels in 2025.

The series will replace older vessels, generating annual CO2 emissions savings of around 1m tonnes. As an industry first, the vessels will offer Maersk customers 'carbon neutral transportation at scale on the high seas'.

'The time to act is now, if we are to solve shipping’s climate challenge,' said Soren Skou, Maersk CEO. 'This order proves that carbon neutral solutions are available today across container vessel segments and that Maersk stands committed to the growing number of our customers who look to decarbonise their supply chains. Further, this is a firm signal to fuel producers that sizeable market demand for the green fuels of the future is emerging at speed.'

Maersk said that it would operate the vessels on carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol as soon as possible, although the group noted that sourcing an adequate amount of carbon neutral methanol from day one in service would be challenging, as it requires a significant production ramp up of proper carbon neutral methanol production.

The vessels will be designed to have a flexible operational profile, the group continued, enabling them to perform efficiently across many trades, and add flexibility regarding customer needs.

'We are very excited about this addition to our fleet, which will offer our customers unique access to carbon neutral transport on the high seas while balancing their needs for competitive slot costs and flexible operations,' said Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO, fleet and strategic brands at Maersk.

'To us, this is the ideal large vessel type to enable sustainable, global trade on the high seas in the coming decades and from our dialogue with potential suppliers, we are confident we will manage to source the carbon neutral methanol needed.'

The new vessels come as part of Maersk’s ongoing fleet renewal programme and will replace tonnage of more than 150,000 TEU which is reaching end-of-life and leaving the Maersk managed fleet between 2020 and Q1 2024.