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CMB launches world’s first hydrogen-diesel passenger vessel

Source: CMB

Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) has announced the launch of the Hydroville – the world’s first accredited passenger shuttle to operate under both hydrogen and diesel propulsion.

Earlier in November, CMB completed successful sea-trials of the Hydroville passenger shuttle and received the Certificate of Class from accreditation group Lloyd’s Register. This makes the catamaran the world’s first dual-fuel hydrogen/diesel passenger shuttle.

It forms part of a wider move by CMB to “make the entire CMB fleet greener, more efficient and more competitive.” Considering that Compagnie Maritime Belge has almost 100 vessels, operating all over the world, the task will not be easy.

According to CMB’s website, the shuttle will be primarily used to test hydrogen technology for future application in other commercial boats. Indeed, it was reported that the company plans to follow up the Hydroville by equipping “a CMB container ship with a hydrogen-powered auxiliary engine.”

It also plans to use the Hydroville as a method of easing rush-hour traffic for CMB employees between Kruibeke, in East Flanders, along the river Scheldt to Antwerp. Additionally, the boat can also be set up as a meeting centre or mobile presentation pod. Finally, the Hydroville will operate as an ambassador for dual-fuel marine technologies at events.

The boat is relatively small, but fast, measuring 14 metres and is capable of carrying up to 16 passengers and two crew members. Top speeds are 27 knots, with the dual fuel propulsion system will offer a total capacity of 441kW. This system is powered by 12 hydrogen tanks and two diesel tanks. It seems that the vessel will rely on hydrogen for the majority of its passage as the diesel will reportedly be used for ignition, pilotage, and backup fuel in emergencies.

Hydrogen fuel cells aboard the Hydroville Source: Maritime Journal

‘Meeting Room’ configuration on the Hydroville. Source: Maritime Journal

According to the Maritime Journal, CMB opted out of using batteries over diesel because it “believes that batteries or fuel cells are less suitable for heavy transport (such as ships and aircraft). The batteries required for an application of this kind would be so huge that their cost and weight would make them economically unfeasible. The time it takes to charge that kind of battery would be problematic as well.”

However, the Roll-Royce yacht and the recent Energy Observer zero-emission catamaran beg to differ. The latter uses wind, solar, and desalination (to produce hydrogen), to power the boat without the need for fossil fuels or heavy batteries.

Two years ago, ElecTrans pondered whether or not hydrogen fuel cells have a part to play in developing shipping. We predicted that we would not see a commercially viable form of the technology until 2035 – so it is encouraging to see developments that suggest this technology could arrive sooner.

Since then, there have been several new marine projects that have concentrated on batteries or hybrid systems rather than hydrogen. Amid recent news that over 150 shipping companies have gathered to set a decarbonisation ‘Action Plan’, it will be interesting to see if CMB’s research can be applied successfully to larger vessels and perhaps even instigate other companies to adopt hydrogen as a fuel source.


About Catherine Campbell

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