Carriers and shippers are working toward reducing emissions and exploring other solutions

In June 2021, Höegh Autoliners announced plans to acquire 12 multi-fuel vessels, each with a capacity of 9,100 car equivalent units (CEU). In March, Höegh completed its first carbon-neutral voyage from Europe to South Africa, with a vessel using biofuels.

The carrier has been on a decarbonization quest for well over a decade. Since 2008, the company says it has reduced carbon intensity by 37% across its fleet, making significant progress towards the 45% reduction sought by International Maritime Organization (IMO) by 2030.

Höegh’s Aurora class vessels are the first in the industry to be ready for operation running on ammonia as fuel.
Höegh’s Aurora class vessels are the first in the industry to be ready for operation running on ammonia as fuel.

These developments are emblematic of a trend that is proceeding among many roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) carriers and shippers. Among other developments, Volkswagen has begun to use, and BMW is testing, biofuels in vessels that deliver their vehicles. Wilhelmsen Ship Management is exploring a variety of potential solutions, including the use of hydrogen fuel cells aboard ships. (For more on hydrogen developments, see Ro/Ro carriers experimenting with hydrogen to achieve zero emissions)

IMO Greenhouse Strategy

In April 2018, the IMO announced a greenhouse gas strategy to improve carbon dioxide efficiency in shipping. IMO targets include a 45% reduction in carbon emissions within the next decade and net zero emissions by 2050. IMO data indicate that maritime transportation emits 940 million tons of CO2 annually, accounting for 2.5% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. The marine fuel industry has already transitioned from a sulfur cap of 3.5% sulfur in bunker fuel emissions on the high seas to 0.5%, after an IMO mandate took effect on January 1, 2020.

Höegh’s contemplated vessel acquisitions, known as the Aurora class, are the first in the industry to be ready for operation on ammonia, a carbon-neutral fuel, making them the largest and greenest pure truck and car carriers (PCTCs) to be built, according to Lise Duetoft, Höegh Autoliners’ chief strategy and analytics officer. “We anticipate delivery of the first of the new series of vessels in the beginning of 2024,” said Duetoft. “This will put us in the forefront of sustainable transportation.”

Höegh’s carbon-neutral voyage from Europe to South Africa in March 2021, by way of the Höegh Trigger, ran on advanced biofuels, as part of an arrangement with the Dutch company GoodFuels. The biofuel chosen for the test run burned virtually free of sulfur oxides and reduced the vessel’s carbon emissions by as much as 90%. “The use of biofuel can contribute significant steps towards decarbonization in the maritime transportation industry,” said Andreas Enger, Höegh’s CEO.

Biofuels are considered “drop-in” replacements for traditional marine fuels, which means they do not require modification of onboard systems or fuel tanks. “They are a scalable, sustainable, technically compliant, affordable, and market-ready solution,” said Isabel Welten,…

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