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Mette Maersk maritime biofuel-pilot a resounding success

The Mette Maersk container vessel, sailing on a 20 percent blend of biofuel, has returned safely to Rotterdam, the Netherlands after a three-month roundtrip from Rotterdam to Shanghai, China. It sailed for a major part on a fuel blend with second generation biofuel during this trip.

According to theInternational Maritime Organisation (IMO), over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world.

According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), maritime transport is essential to the world’s economy as over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea. And while shipping currently accounts for 2-3 percent of total global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, it is set to rise to 15 percent by 2050 if left unchecked.

In March 2019, a group of Dutch multinationals amongst which FrieslandCampina and its Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition (DSGC) partners Heineken, Philips, DSM, Shell, and Unilever – joined forces with AP Møller – Maersk to run a biofuel pilot.

DSGC members and Maersk all agree that tackling harmful emissions related to shipping is urgently needed and that cross-industry collaboration is required to develop, test and implement new solutions.

DSGC companies join in the action to contribute to the UN SDGs. With this initiative, we focus on Climate Action (SDG 13). We have taken the initiative to partner with A.P. Moller – Maersk on this important effort. This pilot testing biofuel on a cross-ocean shipping lane marks an important step. However, many more innovations are urgently needed. These can only be successfully developed, tested and implemented in industry collaborations like this said Jan Peter Balkenende, Chair of the DSGC.

Triple E class vessel

The container vessel Mette Maersk, a Triple E class vessel and one of the largest vessel containers in the world, sailed on a blend with 20 percent biofuel made from used cooking oil (UCO). This was the first time for such a high blend percentage on an ocean container vessel on this scale.

The pilot lays the foundation for how cross-industry partners can work together to take steps towards a more sustainable future. Biofuels are one of the potential solutions that can be implemented in the short and medium term. Through this pilot, we aim to learn more about using biofuels in general, and to understand the possibilities around increasing its usage in a sustainable and economical way, said Søren Toft, COO of Maersk when the pilot was announced.

Apart from sailing on a 20 percent blend, the Mette Maersk also sailed on a 7 percent blend, which in total leads for this round-trip to a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 1 500 tons and of sulphur emissions by 20 tonnes. Shell supplied the new fuel blend, for which it did extensive testing in its laboratories and the company will continue to research and develop second-generation biofuels based on various waste streams.

Maersk to continue testing and validation

According to a statement, Maersk will continue to test and validate the use of biofuels for marine application while progressing the development for other low-carbon solutions. Sustainably sourced second-generation biofuels are just one possible solution for the decarbonisation of ocean shipping. Longer term breakthroughs in fuel and technical development such as electro-fuels (e-fuels) and the investment into commercial supply chains are needed to achieve significant emissions reductions.

The pilot represents a significant step towards proving the technical, sustainable and commercial validation for decarbonised ocean transport and Maersk is seeing strong demand for sustainable shipping from its customers. Therefore, Maersk plans to invite and collaborate with more customers to take an active part in the decarbonisation of shipping over the coming years to create commercial availability for its wider customer base.

The bow of a Maersk vessel (photo courtesy Maersk).
The bow of a Maersk vessel (photo courtesy Maersk).

The members of the DSGC who distribute their products globally via ocean shipping will investigate how they can further stimulate these developments. In addition, they will generate attention for the urgency and the opportunities in relevant international networks and platforms, such as the Clean Cargo Working Group and the BICEPS Network.

Walter Vermeer responsible at FrieslandCampina for Logistics Procurement, is pleased with the result of the pilot.

FrieslandCampina is the second biggest exporter of containers from the Netherlands. Ocean transport covers worldwide for 3 percent of all CO2 emissions. With this pilot FrieslandCampina aims to show its leading role in making this type of transport more sustainable. Joining forces with other shippers and partners in the transport chain is key. This pilot demonstrates to us that biofuel can become one of the sustainable solutions, that are technically and economically feasible. FrieslandCampina is committed to lead with sustainability also in ocean shipping, said Walter Vermeer.

Along with this pilot with the DSGC, FrieslandCampina is also co-founder of the BICEPS Network, to stimulate sustainable ocean shipping by including sustainability in the procurement process and boosting market-ready innovations.

FrieslandCampina wants to lead with sustainability and as a large exporter that also makes ocean shipping part of our responsibility scope. Partnering with our fellow DSGC members and Maersk in this initiative means we work together on an actual innovative pilot that potentially reduces our carbon footprint, remarked Hein Schumacher, CEO, FrieslandCampina.

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