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Is Maersk switching to ammonia for newbuilds?

Until now, Maersk has relied exclusively on methanol as a fuel for newbuildings. The Danes are now opting for ammonia for another series.

The Danish container shipping company is reportedly about to order a new series of up to twelve sub-Panamax container ships, each with a capacity of 3,500 TEU. Unlike all other recent orders, however, not only methanol but also ammonia is being considered as a fuel. [ds_preview]

Industry experts suspect that two shipyards in China have been shortlisted. These would be Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard (GWS) and Yangzijiang Shipbuilding (YZJ).

The latter is already building ten comparable but conventionally powered ships. The customer is Japan’s Mitsui & Co. and Maersk is being considered as a long-term charterer for this newbuild series.

Maersk with a rather small order book

The Danish company’s order book so far comprises a total of 31 ships with 390,000 TEU. The newbuilding ratio of 9.4% of the existing fleet (4.15 million TEU) is rather small compared to the rest of the industry. This includes units with 17,000 TEU, 13,000 TEU, 9,000 TEU – all designed for methanol fuel – as well as some smaller, classic units.

Now the No. 2 in international container shipping apparently sees a need for more “green” ships with less than 4,000 TEU and the potential in another alternative fuel – ammonia. Market experts estimate the costs at up to 70 million dollars per newbuild.

Maersk recently signed six methanol dual-fuel vessels with a capacity of 9,000 TEU with YZJ for delivery in 2026 and 2027. The new 3,500 TEU vessels could enter service around the same time, according to reports.

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