Major container liner operators are charting a variety of pathways to adopting alternative fuels.

In this week’s Green Seas podcast, TradeWinds’ container shipping correspondent Ian Lewis explains how LNG and methanol have each had a liner giant that served as a leader before others followed.

In the case of LNG, France’s CMA CGM forged a path, and now a TradeWinds count of Clarksons data shows there are 195 LNG-fuelled container ships on the orderbook.

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After AP-Moller Maersk took the baton for methanol, there are now 76 methanol-fuelled boxships on order. That includes orders by CMA CGM, as all but one newbuilding order this year has focused on methanol fuelling despite supply concerns.

After MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company signed up with a coalition to work on an ammonia fuelled container ship, could the world’s largest liner operator become a leader in this fuel?

Lloyd’s Register chief executive Nick Brown, whose classification society is working on a number of ammonia initiatives that include the project with MSC, told Green Seas that if ammonia’s safety hurdles are overcome, it could become the dominant fuel in container shipping.

Meanwhile, the orderbook still has some 624 vessels powered by conventional fuels, although some are being built ready for alternative fuel adoption at a later date and all may be able to utilise biofuels.

Pacific Environment climate campaign director Madeline Rose told the podcast that her group wants to see such newbuildings cancelled. She said it is also thankful that major cargo owners in container shipping have committed to zero-carbon shipping and that methanol offers a good option for now.

But in the future, Rose wants to see batteries, wind and hydrogen fuel cells play a greater role.

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