First hydrogen cargo vessel set to operate on the Seine

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The European innovation project Flagships is set to deploy the world’s first commercial cargo transportation vessel operating on hydrogen on the river Seine in Paris, with commercial operations set to commence in 2021.

The hydrogen cargo transportation vessel will be owned by French inland shipowner Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT), a subsidiary of the Sogestran Group. The company is currently developing a new business for urban distribution with transportation vessels in the Paris area.

“The demand for more sustainable technologies in inland waterway transport is on the rise. As part of the Flagships project, we are happy to be leading the way on reducing emissions from transport and demonstrating the superior features of hydrogen fuel cells in waterborne applications,” said Matthieu Blanc, director of CFT.

“Green and sustainable shipping is a prerequisite for reaching national and international emission reduction targets. Ships powered by renewable hydrogen will make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions from shipping and improving air quality in cities and other densely populated areas,” added Flagships project coordinator Jyrki Mikkola from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Both the EU and the shipping industry see hydrogen as a key contributor in the efforts to mitigate climate change. The Flagships project was awarded €5m (US$5.9m) of funding in 2018 from the EU’s research and innovation program Horizon 2020, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), to deploy two hydrogen vessels in France and Norway.

The project’s initial plan was to deploy a hydrogen push-boat in the Lyon area, but as the broader potential for hydrogen in cargo transportation emerged, the demo pusher was changed to an inland cargo vessel. The new vessel will be tasked with moving goods on pallets and in containers along the Seine.

The shift in focus is based on the Sogestran Group’s experience in Belgium, where Blue Line Logistics (BLL), another Sogestran subsidiary, operates three cargo vessels sailing under the concept name ‘Zulu’. One Zulu vessel has also been put into operation in Paris, and an additional two Zulu ships are currently under construction for the same market. The Flagships project will install a hydrogen power generation system on one of the newbuilds, scheduled for delivery in September 2021. Blue Line Logistics plans to have the ship operating on hydrogen before the end of 2021.

“As we move through the energy transition, hydrogen technologies are gaining traction in the maritime sector. Flagships is a very exciting project for us, since it is leading the way to demonstrate how vessels operating on green hydrogen can decarbonize urban rivers. By translating technological innovations into commercial operations we can make zero-emission inland vessels a reality in every European city!” said Bart Biebuyck, executive director at FCH JU.

The vessel will operate on compressed hydrogen produced via electrolysis, enabling not only zero-emission operations, but also creating a solid base for more local zero-emission transportation, both at sea and on land. The power generation system will be supplied by ABB Marine & Ports, with fuel cells from Ballard. LMG Marin is responsible for detail design drawings, with hydrogen provided by suppliers in the Paris region.

The Flagships consortium includes 11 European partners, with two shipowners, Norled and CFT assisted by its support company Sogestion and Sogestran ; the maritime OEM and integrator companies ABB Marine & Ports and Westcon Power & Automation; and ship design company LMG Marin. Fuel cell technology is provided by Ballard Europe, with vessel energy monitoring and management by Pers-EE. Management and dissemination activities are provided by VTT and NCE Maritime CleanTech, respectively.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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