Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk is on the brink of inking orders for up to 10 additional methanol dual-fuel neo-panamax container ship newbuildings and has kicked off work with shipyards on a similar number of 2,500-teu boxships.

Brokers following the business said AP Moller-Maersk’s order for five firm methanol-fuelled vessels is “imminent” and could be announced this week.

Contracts on the container ships, which are understood to be 17,000-teu vessels — slightly larger than the 16,000-teu ships the owner opted for in its first round of orders — are expected to be accompanied by five optional slots.

Shipbuilding sources said four shipyards — two from South Korea and one each from Japan and China — were vying for Maersk’s newbuildings.

“But the competition was really between the two South Korean shipbuilders — Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries,” one source said.

The shipowner is assumed to be working with Hyundai Heavy Industries on the business, although this has yet to be confirmed. Delivery of the five newbuildings is scheduled for 2025.

Maersk took its first plunge on large-size methanol-fuelled boxships with the yard in 2021 when it contracted eight pioneering 16,000-teu vessels priced at $175m each, later upping the order to a total of 12 ships for delivery dates in 2024 and 2025.

The price of Maersk’s latest neo-panamax newbuildings has not been disclosed but shipbuilding sources said HHI is looking for about $190m for a dual-fuelled, 16,000-teu container ship. The hike in price is due to rising labour and materials costs.

But Maersk, which has opted to champion methanol as its future fuel of choice, is not stopping with this ship size.

Newbuilding brokers revealed that Maersk received shipyard offers in the last full week of August for a series of up to 10 container ships of 2,500 teu each.

Again, brokers indicate that these comprise five firm vessels and a similar number of optional ships.

The vessels would add to the lone 2,200-teu methanol dual-fuelled container ship that the company ordered at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in early 2021 for delivery in 2023.

In a statement to TradeWinds, Maersk said: “We do not comment on rumours and speculation in the market.”

The company said it continuously reviews its fleet composition to ensure it matches current and future operational requirements including the opportunities to charter from third parties, buy or sell vessels, or order newbuildings.

“Continued capex [capital expenditure] discipline remains a key focus area for Maersk,” the company said, reiterating its aim to maintain a fleet capacity between 4m teu and 4.3m teu, as a combination of Maersk-managed and time-chartered vessels.

Maersk is targeting being a net-zero company by 2040 and transporting 25% of its volumes on green fuels while only ordering newbuildings that can be operated on these cleaner bunkers.

“Retrofit of existing Maersk vessels to enable green methanol operations remains an important part of our toolbox to deliver on the Maersk emissions targets,” the company said.

Maersk has been working hard to nail down its grey and future green methanol bunker supplies for the newbuildings it has ordered.

In August, the Danish liner company inked an agreement on bio-methanol supply with China’s Debo group — its seventh strategic partnership worldwide after signing others with Orsted, CIMC Enric and Proman.

In March, Maersk said it would have access to at least 730,000 tonnes of green methanol per year by 2025, which would be more than enough to fuel its first 12 newbuildings.

Bunker suppliers that TradeWinds spoke with said the current price estimates for the supply of green methanol are about $950 per tonne.

Despite the high pricing and scarcity of supplies, there has been a rise in shipowners moving forward with orders or eyeing up methanol dual-fuelled newbuilding tonnage.

French liner company CMA CGM, which has been a pioneer of LNG dual-fuelled boxships, recently signed up to container ship newbuildings that can bunker methanol.