Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk said Tuesday it was speeding up plans for an environment-friendly fleet with the order of eight carbon-neutral container vessels, a pioneering project in the highly-polluting industry.
Maersk said in a statement that it will introduce the "groundbreaking" ocean-going vessels, capable of operating on carbon-neutral methanol, in the first quarter of 2024.
The ships, built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and equipped with dual fuel engines, will be able to each transport 16,000 containers, and will account for about three percent of the company's fleet.
The deal with HHI includes an option for four more vessels in 2025.
According to Maersk, the new ships will enable the company to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by about one million tonnes.
Global maritime transport is more polluting than the aviation sector, according to the Higher Institute of Maritime Economics (Isemar).
It is responsible for 2.98 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 2018 figures from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) show.
"The time to act is now, if we are to solve shipping's climate challenge," AP Moller-Maersk chief executive Soren Skou said in the statement.
"This order proves that carbon-neutral solutions are available today across container vessel segments and that Maersk stands committed to the growing number of our customers who look to decarbonise their supply chains."
"Further, this is a firm signal to fuel producers that sizable market demand for the green fuels of the future is emerging at speed," he added.
In February, the group announced it would launch its first carbon-neutral vessel in 2023, seven years ahead of its initial target.
That ship will operate on bio-methanol and will sail intra-regional routes.
Maersk, which sold its oil division in 2017 to TotalEnergies, aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.
In 2020, it said it had reduced its carbon emissions by 42 percent from the previous year.