Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, yesterday announced it had met its own 2020 target to cut fleet-wide carbon emissions by 25 per cent.
"We are proud to hit this mark eight years ahead of schedule. It is confirmation we're on the right track. And to keep that momentum we're raising the target to a 40 per cent reduction in CO2 by 2020," said Morten Engelstoft, Maersk's chief operating officer.
Shipping lines are working to meet a goal of cutting emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 under a 2011 mandate from the United Nations International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
It is estimated that ships carry 90 per cent of globally traded goods, and the aim is to prevent the industry's share of global carbon emissions from climbing from 2007 levels of 3.3 per cent to 18 per cent in 2050, if emission levels were to continue rising at their current rate.
The IMO says the regulations will save an average of US$50 billion (Dh183.65bn) a year in fuel costs by 2020 and $200bn by 2030 and will remove an estimated 330 million tonnes of CO2 a year from the environment.
Shipping lines that fail to meet the targets face an array of financial and other sanctions currently under review.
Maersk, which carries more than 2.5 million containers a year - equal to 16 per cent of the world's total - drew up its carbon-cutting target by measuring grams of CO2 generated per container carried 1 kilometre. Its performance was independently verified by Lloyd's Register, the international ship classification society.
"We reached this target largely from a combination of operational efficiency, network and voyage optimisation, slow steaming and technical innovation. We will hit the 40 per cent target with more of the same," said Mr Engelstoft. "Another important factor will be the arrival of the Triple-E vessels, which will be the largest and most energy efficient ships on the water."
Maersk has 20 of the new Triple-E vessels on order from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in South Korea.
The ships, capable of carrying 18,000 standard container units, have been designed with fatter hulls that will accommodate a fuel-efficient two-engine layout not possible in current containership designs.
It will also increase cargo capacity lost in tapered hulls, letting the new ships carry 16 per cent more boxes than older vessels only a few metres smaller.
The ships will use about 35 per cent less fuel per container than vessels now used on Asia-to-Europe routes and produce about 50 per cent less carbon emissions, according to Maersk.
"The focus now is on how to consume less fuel," said Odin Kwon, the vice president of ship design at Daewoo. "Ships currently in operation have been built only with speed in mind."
Deliveries of the ships, which will cost about $183 million each, are due to start this year and will run until the first half of 2015.