The first hydrogen-powered tugboat is ready for operation in the Antwerp port area. Developed in a partnership between the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and the Savery family’s CMB.TECH, the vessel is reported to be the largest vessel currently capable of operating solely on hydrogen. It will be used both as a test vessel and a demonstration of the potential for hydrogen as a marine fuel.
CEO of the port authority Jacques Vandermeiren highlights that the port with its diverse ecosystem and operations is “an ideal test bed” for this technology on a large scale. After spending the past few months in Antwerp undergoing final testing and certification by Lloyd’s, the vessel known as Hydrotug 1 will be in full operation at the port in 2024.
The project was first announced in 2019 and designed to use a combustion engine instead of fuel cells to demonstrate the potential for hydrogen as a marine fuel. It is the first vessel that uses the BeHydro V12 dual fuel medium speed engines. The vessel, which is 98 feet (30 meters) in length, has two of the 2 MW V12 engines and is a tractor tug with 65-ton bollard pull capabilities.
The Hydrotug 1 can store 415kg of compressed hydrogen in six stillages installed on deck. The capacity will give the vessel 24 hours of operation.
The order to build the tug went to the Armón Shipyards in Navia, Spain where it was launched on May 16, 2022. A year ago, they transferred the vessel to Belgium, choosing Oostende as the port already had hydrogen facilities as it is the homeport for CMB.TECH's Hydrocat 48, the first hydrogen-powered offshore crew transfer vessel. The tug was undergoing outfitting, including the installation of its unique engines, and initial testing while in Oostende before arriving in Antwerp on October 23. The project however is about a year behind the originally anticipated schedule as they dealt with the pandemic and challenges in executing the concepts for the first tug.
Speaking during today’s christening ceremony, Alexander Saverys highlighted that the project reaffirms CMB.TECH’s commitment to leading the international transition to environmentally-friendly fuel-power ships. The family is pushing forward in all segments of its business with hydrogen and ammonia projects. They recently expanded their order with Damen for the first hydrogen dual-fuel Commissioning Service Operation Vessels (CSOV) for the offshore wind industry. They are also moving forward with bulkers and now large crude oil tankers after having won full control of Euronav.
The Port of Antwerp-Bruges, however, is still exploring a range of new technologies as it looks to find the best solutions to decarbonize port operations. In a parallel project, they are commissioning the first methanol-fueled tug in 2024. They also recently ordered the construction of a battery-electric tug from Damen.