An ammonia-powered ship design led by the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping (MMM Centre) has received approval in principle (AiP) from two classification societies. 

The 3,500 TEU vessel design was developed by a cross-industry taskforce including AP Moller–Maersk (Maersk), MAN Energy Solutions, Deltamarin, Eltronic FuelTech, with the American Bureau of Shipping and Lloyd’s Register delivering the AiP. 

Claus W. Graugaard, CTO at the MMM Centre, described the AiP as a “major milestone” for the project by showing that safety criteria for using ammonia was within industry standards. 

“To unlock the potential of sustainable ammonia as an alternative, low-emissions marine fuel, we must carefully address the safety issues on board and ensure a safe and healthy working environment for our seafarers and people in ports,” said Graugaard.

The MMM Centre said that following the issuing of the AIPs, the next steps for the design include addressing remarks made by the classification societies during the assessment as it looks to bring a charterer and ship owner on to the project. 

While this is not the only design for an ammonia-powered container vessel in the industry, having the backing of major maritime organisations such as the MMM Centre, ABS, and Lloyd’s Register means it is likely to play a significant role in the development of the fuel. 

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The MMM Centre said it is primarily focussed on achieving an adequate level of safety for the crew onboard an ammonia vessel and minimising loss of cargo capacity, with the design including a 4,000m3 ammonia tank optimised to allow for a full roundtrip of the relevant trade routes for a vessel of this size. 

In addition to the industry coalition, the flag state authorities in Denmark and Singapore also took part in the project through the risk assessment stage, hinting that they could be the first to provide regulatory approval. 

Andy McKeran, CCO at Lloyd’s Register, said: “Safety remains a critical aspect for the widespread adoption of ammonia as a marine fuel. This AiP demonstrates a clear cross-sector intention to ensure that ambition becomes reality.” 

While the use of ammonia fuel for container ships is still in the development stage, a recent study from the Global Maritime Forum, supporting the MMM Centre’s NoGAPS design project, found that the cost gap between ammonia ships and conventionally powered ships could be flattened as early as 2026.