DP World-owned container line Unifeeder Group is chartering in two new methanol-powered container ships.

The company said it also has options for two similar vessels.

The 1,250-teu feeder units are being ordered by German owner Elbdeich Reederei for delivery in 2026.

Unifeeder told TradeWinds the vessels will be built at Wenchong Shipyard in China.

The charterer will operate them over the long-term in its European network, contributing to a lowering of emissions.

The line is working with DP World and partners across the industry to find solutions to the challenge of renewable methanol supply.

This needs off-take commitments to build production at the scale that the sector needs to replace conventional fossil fuels, the company said.

“In parallel to the delivery of the methanol-capable vessels, Unifeeder will continue to improve the fuel efficiency of the entire fleet deployed and increase the use of biofuels on the conventional vessels in the fleet,” the shipping company said.

Jesper Kristensen, chief executive of Unifeeder Group, added that the move is another significant step in the green transformation of the company’s fleet and operations.

“These new vessels can be deployed across our current and future networks, offering a flexible, greener solution to our customers,” he said.

“As the number of methanol-capable vessels increases in both our operations and those of our customers, my hope is that this drives an increase in innovation and production amongst methanol producers.”

This will then complete a “virtuous circle” and ensure the company can operate more and more methanol-capable vessels with the “right colour” of methanol fuels in the networks, he explained.

Greenest fuel is the fuel not burned

“Ultimately though, the greenest fuel is the fuel that is not burned,” Kristensen said.

In September, TradeWinds reported that Denmark’s Celsius Shipping had fixed its four methanol-ready 3,000-teu boxship newbuildings under construction in China to Copenhagen-based Unifeeder for five years.

The charterer has committed to a 25% reduction of emissions by 2030, carbon neutrality by 2040 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

It aims to achieve this by emphasising fuel-efficient practices, regular maintenance and refitting processes and fostering a culture of learning and collaboration.

Elbdeich also has two 1,400-teu boxships on order at the Penglai Zhongbai Jinglu shipyard in China for delivery later this year.

Managing director Robert Frese said: “We believe in methanol-capable vessels as part of a suite of solutions being deployed to reduce carbon emissions in our sector and are happy to contribute with this project to a greener future in shipping.”

“We really look forward to operating these modern state-of-the-art container feeder vessels in our partnership with Unifeeder and hope other market participants will follow this example,” he added.

The German shipowner and Unifeeder have already teamed up on the first test of synthetic natural gas as a fuel on a commercial vessel, as well as using biofuels and carrying out various vessel modifications to reduce the fuel consumption of existing tonnage.