Shipping giant Maersk lays out plans to be carbon neutral by 2050

  • Maersk says that to achieve its target, carbon neutral vessels need to be commercially viable by 2030.
  • Several ideas, such as rotor sails, have been developed for the shipping industry over the last few years.
Jerry Lampen | AFP | Getty Images

Global shipping business A.P. Moller-Maersk has set itself the goal of reaching "carbon neutrality" by 2050.

In an announcement Tuesday, Maersk said that to achieve its target, carbon neutral vessels would need to be commercially viable by 2030.

The company said its relative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions had already been cut by 46 percent against a 2007 baseline, adding that this was approximately 9 percent more than the industry average.

In 2012, international shipping was responsible for an estimated 796 million tons of CO2 emissions — around 2.2 percent of total global CO2 emissions that year, according to the International Maritime Organization.

"The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonization in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains," Soren Toft, A.P. Moller-Maersk's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Toft added that the next five to 10 years would be crucial. "We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonized solutions," he said.

Toft added that the last four years had seen Maersk invest roughly $1 billion and engage over 50 engineers per year in the development and deployment of "energy efficient solutions." Going forward, he added, the business could not do this alone.

Several ideas and innovations have been developed for the shipping industry over the last few years.

A passenger ship, for example, has been fitted with a rotor sail that enables it to use wind power during trips between Finland and Sweden.

Finnish shipping business Viking Line's M/S Viking Grace makes use of a 24-meter-tall cylindrical rotor sail developed by Norsepower Oy, another Finnish company.

The sail uses something called the "Magnus effect" for propulsion. As the rotor spins, passing air flows with a lower pressure on one side compared to the other, driving the ship forward.