Hydrogen first for inland waterways vessel

Hydroville will transport CMB employees between Kruibeke and Antwerp during the rush hour, to avoid the traffic jams 'Hydroville' will transport CMB employees between Kruibeke and Antwerp during the rush hour, to avoid the traffic jams

A new inland waterways passenger vessel has become the first to be powered by hydrogen out of the Port of Antwerp.

The shuttle will also commute daily between Kruibeke and Antwerp during peak times, to provide CMB employees with efficient, environmentally-friendly transport to and from the office.

Its operator, Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) has close to a hundred ships navigating the globe, all supported by CMB Technologies, a branch within the group dedicated to developing new technologies and implementing existing ones. Ultimately, the goal is to make the entire CMB fleet greener, more efficient and more competitive.

Future fuel

The Hydroville project is a showcase for the use of clean fuel, in this case hydrogen (H2), in the maritime sector. Hydrogen can be extracted from the environment (eg from water) relatively simply, says CMB and does not release any CO2, atmospheric particulate matter or sulphur oxides when it is combusted.

The shuttle is the group’s first passenger vessel since CMB discontinued its passenger lines. There is already considerable know-how about hydrogen present in and around Antwerp, and the Hydroville project aims to consolidate and further develop this expertise, turning Antwerp into a hydrogen knowledge centre.

In the initial phase, the Hydroville will transport CMB employees between Kruibeke and Antwerp during the rush hour, to avoid the traffic jams. The ship will occasionally be used for meetings or dinners on board, or to organise a trip to the Port of Antwerp.

But in the longer term the catamaran is first and foremost a pilot project to test hydrogen technology for applications in larger seafaring ships. It will also function as a base for demonstrating the use of hydrogen in shipping and will be sent out to attend events all around Europe in this context.

The company opted for combustion engines 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. It believes that fuel cells offer more potential, but the high cost makes them less suitable for large-scale commercial transport.

So the thinking is that to build green ships or aircraft at present, the focus needs to be on biofuel or hydrogen. The first experiment on the table in commercial (freight) shipping is to equip a CMB container ship with a hydrogen-powered auxiliary engine.

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