BMW open for more green pilot tests in shipping

In collaboration with companies like Maersk, BMW will develop a new ship fuel based on a mix between ethanol and lignin. The automaker, which has just joined a coalition for CO2-free ships, is open to entering more similar trials, the company says in an interview with ShippingWatch.

Photo: China Stringer Network/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Germany's BMW opens up to joining more pilot trials paving the way for new, greener fuels in shipping.

The car manufacturer attracted attention in the fall by joining shipping lines Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen, clothing firms H&M and Levi Strauss Co. as well as the University of Copenhagen in developing a new ship fuel based on a mix between ethanol and lignin.

We are very open to any pilot and to test alternative fuels and solutions to decarbonize shipping

Stephan Reinhold, Sustainability Manager for Transport and Logistics, BMW

This could be followed in the future by more similar initiatives from BMW, where maritime vessel emissions or deep sea freight accounts for about half of the company's transport related emissions.

"We are very open for any pilot and to test alternative fuels and solutions to decarbonize shipping, so we would like to drive the change in to decarbonization in terms of how we can drive from the demand side," Stephan Reinhold, sustainability manager for Transport and Logistics at the car maker, tells ShippingWatch.

Reinhold declines to reveal how much BMW is investing in trials that can also cover other transport sectors than shipping.

Part of developing CO2-free vessel

The trial concerning the new ship fuel to be made with Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen is not the only example of shipping initiatives joined by BMW.

Maersk and BMW to develop ship fuel from alcohol

The car maker has also joined the shipping industry's Getting to Zero Coalition, which aims to develop an ocean-going commercial ship with zero CO2 emissions before 2030. BMW holds that as a major customer of shipping companies, it can contribute to boosting sustainable development in terms of demand.

It is not the case, however, that BMW is already demanding more sustainable transport solutions today.

It will be some time yet before the company will outright prefer routes and services based on, for instance, CO2 emissions, says Reinhold, who cannot name an exact date for when this will happen.

Internal discussions so far concern how the company can implement greener transport solutions in its procurement systems and routes, the manufacturer then can demand from its shippers, he says.

Must be financially viable

"But so far, it is not implemented, and this is also the way of our internal processes, how can we actually identify possibilities that are also financially viable to make this change happen," Reinhold says.

What will it take to implement this in your business?

"From the political side, we need clear signals also in terms of CO2 pricing, which then enables companies and our procurement department to implement carbon-related prices," Reinhold says, continuing:

"When you talk about first movers, it is about how we can close the gap between the currently high prices on alternative fuels and also in the cross-sector interactions, where dialog with other stakeholders in the entire value chain is needed to make things happen within the next ten years."

English Edit: Jonas Sahl Jørgensen

Maersk and BMW to develop ship fuel from alcohol 

100 stakeholders must find common ground on CO2-free ships 

New fuels will play minor role at Bunker Holding in ten years 

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