With shipowning giants such as AP Moller-Maersk ordering methanol-powered ships, just what are they getting themselves into?

“I think what they’re getting [is] a proven, safe and reliable technology,” Waterfront Shipping president Paul Hoexter told TradeWinds.

Methanex subsidiary Waterfront was the first shipowner to use methanol as a fuel, ordering six tankers capable of running on it and conventional marine fuels in 2013.

Since, the Vancouver-based shipowner — which carries approximately 80% of Methanex’s methanol cargoes — has grown its fleet of dual-fuelled methanol-powered vessels to 12. It intends to power 60% of its fleet with methanol by 2023, when it will have another seven dual-fuelled ships in its fleet.

Hoexter said since those first newbuildings ordered nearly a decade ago hit the water in 2016, they have spent more than 100,000 hours in operation.

“A lot of the learning has been worked out in that first generation” of ships, he said.

The system was an add-on to an existing MAN system, he explained, but the delivery system was new.

The company had to install double-walled piping for methanol and do additional work to put in place safety features — such as the ability to switch to conventional fuel should the need arise.

Any issues the company had were rectified in the second generation of ships, Hoexter said.

Last year, Maersk placed an order with Hyundai Heavy Industries for a dozen 16,000-teu container ships capable of running on methanol and conventional fuels, the first of which is due for delivery in 2024.

A smaller 2,200-teu ship will be delivered next year.

The Danish owner expects to run the ships on renewable methanol, of which it has 730,000 tonnes contracted by 2025.

Additionally, Greece’s Danaos Corp enlisted Dalian Shipbuilding Industries Co to build as many as four 7,100-teu ships, which will run on conventional fuel but with the ability to burn methanol.

Waterfront would not say if it intends to shift to renewable methanol but said Methanex can provide biomethanol produced at a facility in Louisiana.

Hoexter said conventional methanol already slashes a shipowner’s carbon emissions and that owners who want to go further can begin blending renewable methanol into the fuel to reduce it further.

“The flexibility, the dual-fuelled nature of it allows the operator to run on whatever is best to meet low-emissions regulations,” he said.

“When it comes to the methanol as a liquid fuel it’s compatible with existing bunkering infrastructure with minimal modifications needed, which is certainly an advantage of the technology and methanol as a marine fuel.”