Shipping giant Eastern Pacific plumps for ammonia and methanol

Eastern Pacific Shipping, one of the world’s largest shipowners with 168 vessels in its fleet, has weighed in on the future fuels debate, showing a preference for ammonia and methanol. The Idan Ofer-controlled company revealed today it has signed with Dutch fuel provider OCI and engine manufacturing giant MAN Energy Solutions to retrofit some of its existing tankers and construct methanol engine and ammonia engine newbuilds. As well as supplying the fuel, OCI has committed to charter the first retrofitted vessel from Eastern Pacific.

Eastern Pacific stated in a release today it had an “agnostic” approach to its alternative marine fuel programme.

The shipping line’s CEO, Cyril Ducau, said, “As a leading tonnage provider, EPS has taken a firm stance that sustainability begins with accountability. This means we have a responsibility to implement emission lowering solutions available today while simultaneously developing solutions for tomorrow. Converting our existing conventional fleet to burn methanol creates a unique opportunity to continue lowering our carbon footprint significantly and rapidly. In the meantime, developing ammonia-fuelled conversion and newbuilding projects will help develop more mature zero-carbon solutions in the longer-term. We are excited about the next steps and to share our findings with the industry.”

Sustainability begins with accountability

Eastern Pacific said todays memorandum of understanding served as an example of “not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good”, as the technology to retrofit vessels to run on methanol exists today while using methanol and ammonia on newbuilds is still a few years away.

Ahmed El-Hoshy, CEO of OCI, commented: “Methanol and ammonia are the fuels of the future and we are excited to continue to play a part in the transition to zero carbon through this partnership.”

El-Hoshy said he reckoned shipping would likely start by adopting grey/blue methanol and ammonia and then shift to green as production costs come down, customer appetites move towards green and regulations continue to develop.

Brian Østergaard Sørensen, head of R&D, two-stroke business at MAN Energy Solutions, commented: “We view these initiatives as closely aligned with our own strategy of cooperating with external partners to develop sustainable technologies. Methanol and ammonia are very interesting candidates as zero-carbon fuels.”

MAN has already introduced a methanol- burning two-stroke engine, while it expects to deliver its first ammonia-fuelled engine in 2024.

OCI is expected to charter the first retrofitted methanol fuelled vessel using already in-service MAN engines and technology in the next two years.

Eastern Pacific’s decision to invest in methanol and ammonia mirrors another shipping giant. Maersk has actioned similar plans this year – readying its first methanol-fuelled boxship to be ready by 2023 while also investing in an upcoming ammonia fuel plant.

Similarly, BW Group, another of the world’s largest shipowners has made its position clear on the future fuels debate. Andreas Sohmen-Pao, chairman of the group, said last September his company is looking at methanol, ammonia as well as biofuels on its path towards decarbonisation.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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