The world’s first cargo ship that produces nearly zero planet-heating pollution is on track to set sail in 2026, according to one of the firms behind the project. Fertilizer producer Yara International and its partners plan to power the Yara Eyde — which is yet to be built — mostly with clean ammonia, meaning it should emit 95% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than the average fossil fuel-powered vessel, the Norwegian company told CNN. Svein Tore Holsether, the firm’s president and chief executive, hopes the vessel will show “what is possible” for the shipping industry on its road to decarbonization. “Now is the time to move away from long-term talk and promises on what we’re going to do in 2040 and 2050, and really use the technologies available today… and show that it works,” he told CNN. According to the International Maritime Organization, shipping accounts for close to 3% of global annual emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Yara International, one of the world’s biggest fertilizer makers, has joined forces with its subsidiary Yara Clean Ammonia and Norway’s North Sea Container Line to work on the ship, which will transport goods between Norway and Germany. Cutting emissions The production of ammonia typically involves heavy use of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, and emits vast quantities of CO2. The process releases nearly twice as much CO2 per metric ton (1.1 short ton) of ammonia as the manufacturing of crude steel, and four times when compared with cement, according to the International Energy Agency. However, Yara Clean Ammonia plans to provide a mix of “blue” and “green” ammonia for the Yara Eyde. In “blue” ammonia production, CO2 emissions are captured at the source and stored underground, while “green” ammonia is made using renewable electricity. Biodiesel, which will be needed to kick-start the ship’s engine before it switches to burning ammonia, will provide 5% of the vessel’s energy needs, a Yara International spokesperson told CNN. The biodiesel will be carbon-neutral, the spokesperson said, explaining that its production would absorb as much CO2 as the fuel would emit when burnt. Researchers have found that biofuels, of which biodiesel is one example, are not always carbon-neutral. The steps involved in producing biofuels, such as using fertilizers to grow the plants that some are made from, may emit CO2. There are other caveats too. It’s not yet been decided who will build the Yara Eyde and, as such, any CO2 emissions from the construction of the ship cannot yet be estimated. Green ammonia also has “drawbacks,” according to Faïg Abbasov, director of shipping at Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based non-profit. “Its combustion on board the vessel creates nitrous oxide, which is the second-most potent greenhouse gas,” he told CNN. But a Yara Clean Ammonia spokesperson said a catalyzer would be put into the ship’s engine to absorb the nitrous oxide emissions, noting that the engine’s design was still in a relatively early stage. This is not the first attempt to clean up shipping. In 2021, Maersk, one of the world’s biggest shipping firms, announced plans to buy several carbon-neutral cargo ships that would run on e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol. In August last year, the company said it would launch the first carbon-neutral vessel by the first quarter of 2024. And in July the shipping industry pledged to reduce its emissions to net zero “by or around” 2050, which would mean removing from the atmosphere at least as much pollution as it emits. But the commitment was criticized by some climate experts as woefully inadequate in the face of an escalating climate crisis.