With its new flagship, the new mega freighter “Berlin Express”, the Hamburg shipping company Hapag-Lloyd is setting course for more climate-friendly shipping. Although the ship can also run on conventional fuel, it currently runs on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which emits around a quarter less CO2. The “dual fuel” machine is therefore also suitable for non-fossil and therefore climate-neutral fuels such as bio-methane or e-methane.

On Monday, the 400 meter long and 61 meter wide ship was officially added to the Hapag-Lloyd fleet in its home port of Hamburg. The godmother of the ceremonial baptism ceremony was Germany’s First Lady Elke Büdenbender, the wife of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

With a capacity of 23,664 20-foot standard containers (TEU), the ship built in South Korea is the largest freighter ever to sail under the German flag. Even the world’s largest container ships only have a few hundred TEU more capacity. With the freighters of the class of ships known internally as the “Hamburg Express”, the world’s fifth-largest container shipping company is moving into new dimensions: such large ships have not previously existed in Hapag-Lloyd’s fleet of 258 ships. The “Berlin Express” has been running a regular service between the Chinese port of Ningbo and Hamburg since August.

A long road to climate neutrality

“The new Hamburg Express class marks a turning point at Hapag-Lloyd,” said the shipping company’s boss, Rolf Habben Jansen. “With the highly efficient ships, emissions can be reduced immediately and significantly. At the same time, they are an important component of our strategy to advance decarbonization step by step.”

After long discussions, the members of the World Shipping Organization (IMO) agreed in July to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 or shortly thereafter. Intermediate goals for 2030 and 2040 should pave the way for this. Hapag-Lloyd itself has set itself the goal of operating the entire fleet in a climate-neutral manner by 2045.

However, there is still a long way to go before climate-friendly shipping becomes possible. Today, shipping is responsible for around three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the whole of Germany. At the same time, it forms the backbone of world trade: around 90 percent of the flow of goods is carried out by ship. Today, container ships still mostly run on heavy oil or marine diesel, and very few also run on LNG, like the “Berlin Express”. Because this makes it easy to switch to climate-neutrally produced methane, Hapag-Lloyd refers to its new LNG ships as a bridge technology.