A slew of joint announcements by rival shipping companies demanding action on climate change is a positive development despite differences over their decarbonisation strategies, according to the environment chief at Mitsui OSK Lines.

Tatsuro Watanabe pointed to a call by the leadership of MOL and AP Moller-Maersk demanding regulators act to encourage shipowners to switch to cleaner fuels and a statement by five chief executives calling for an end date for fossil-fuel powered newbuilds.

He said the comments were hopeful signs that companies were prepared to work together to confront a common threat even if they had different interests. He said the five chief executives include AP Moller-Maersk, which is strongly backing methanol dual-fuel ships, while CMA CGM has been ordering LNG-powered vessels.

He added that the united approach was a key difference from previous COP conferences and signalled increased confidence that shipping could achieve tougher decarbonisation targets set this summer if regulators and wider society play their part.

“I think the atmosphere in our industry is changing and we are in a position to make better internal collaboration among the team members, sharing the same urgent goal of net zero emissions,” Watanabe told TradeWinds.

All of the chief executives have pointed to the need for rapid agreement on a form of carbon levy to close the gap between the cost of bunker and green fuels and encourage investment.

The price of green fuels are set to be at least three to four times more expensive than traditional bunker fuel, with analysis suggesting that could add $1,000 to the cost of shipping a container from Asia to Europe, said MOL chief executive Takeshi Hashimoto and AP Moller-Maersk’s Vincent Clerc in an appeal for action at COP28 in Dubai.

The chief executives of CMA CGM, AP Moller-Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, Wallenius Wilhelmsen and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co also said this week that the only way for the industry to achieve its decarbonisation goals was to transition to green fuels quickly and on a large scale.

Shipping chief executives in decarbonisation call. Photo: CMA CGM

Campaigners cautiously welcomed the chief executives’ statement.

Jonathan Butler of Ship It Zero, which is pushing major companies towards emissions-free long-haul shipping, said: “The clock is ticking on the climate crisis and we don’t have time to waste with false solutions.

“We applaud these top shipping carriers for recognising their power and responsibility to act in this moment.”

As well as calling for action, John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said chief executives had to play their part now by putting in place emissions-cutting plans that included slowing down their ships.