Japanese shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines is taking a bet on battery power for shipping with a new investment in the US.

The group’s venture capital arm MOL Plus will pump an unspecified amount of money into shipowner and technology company FleetZero, which is developing the world’s first zero-emission long-range electric container ship.

The US operation, led by chief executive Steven Henderson, is a battery systems specialist.

The company is working on high-energy-density batteries at a low cost.

“To date, issues of profitability and safety have limited the size and range of electric vessels, but the FleetZero battery system makes it possible to develop medium and large-size electric vessels with sufficient range for medium-to-long-distance transport,” MOL said.

“MOL Plus is pleased to participate in this fundraising in the hope that FleetZero’s initiatives will make a significant contribution to promoting decarbonisation through the early conversion of vessels to electric vessels,” the group added.

The idea is to install the systems on MOL ships and engage other stakeholders, especially in Asia, to support a more widespread use of the systems.

FleetZero last year retrofitted the 120-bp Pacific Joule (built 2007) with the first Leviathan battery technology.

The former John Coghill is a US-flagged anchor-handling tug supply vessel operated by Tullow in Ghana.

The ship was bought by FleetZero from compatriot Laborde Marine in 2022 for $6m.

VesselsValue now assesses it as worth nearly $9m.

No green premium?

“As a leader in marine battery solutions, FleetZero’s mission is to decarbonise shipping without a green premium,” FleetZero said.

“With FleetZero’s advanced batteries, developing large electric vessels capable of medium-to-long-distance transport is now a reality,” the company added.

CEO Henderson spent years at sea as an engineer and officer. He also managed an oil and gas business in the Gulf of Mexico before co-founding Fleetzero.

The company already has backing from Flexport and McKinley Capital, among others.