Decarbonization is an existential question for shipping and companies will go under if they make the wrong calls, according to Simon Bergulf. AP Moller-Maersk’s director of regulatory affairs was speaking at this year’s International Union of Marine Insurance conference, which is being held online.

As the world’s largest shipowner and a leading port operator, Maersk is aware its 700 vessels and 70 terminals are responsible for the emission of up to 24m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, he said. “We believe that we at Maersk have been one of the leaders in decarbonization and energy efficiency over the past decade,” said Mr Bergulf.

It has paid close attention to vessel design, and has also engaged in “right steaming”, a term Mr Bergulf prefers to slow steaming. It has also been testing biofuels, including successful trials of used cooking oil, which have proven easy to use, and an immediate means of curbing emissions.

For many customers, container shipping represents most of their scope 3 emissions, so Maersk wants to help them decarbonize their supply chains. Accordingly, it has launched an eco-delivery product based on biofuels, which has proved popular with fast-moving consumer goods clients, who are willing to pay a premium for carbon-neutral fuel.

While Maersk is willing to take leaps of faith and adopt ideas early, ultimately regulatory mechanisms need to be in place to ensure a level playing field and to chivvy along the laggards.

“It is very clear today that for a shipping company — any shipping company — the risk linked to decarbonization is no longer something that is only being discussed in sustainability departments,” he said. “This is an existential risk. Some shipping companies will disappear, either because they make the wrong choices or because they haven’t done anything. There is no possibility any more to sit back and just wait.”