Innovative European project Flagships is expected to deploy what is believed to be the world’s first commercial cargo vessel that operates on hydrogen – and commercial operations are set to commence in 2021.
The hydrogen vessel will operate on compressed hydrogen produced from electrolysis, enabling a solid foundation for more local zero-emission transport on land and sea.
The vessel will be owned by French inland shipowner Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT), a subsidiary of Sogestran Group, with the ship plying the river Seine in Paris, France.
In addition to this, the Flagships vessel will be tasked with moving goods on pallets and containers along the river Seine.
Matthieu Blanc, Director of Compagnie Fluvial de Transport, said, “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.”
With the EU identifying the shipping industry as a key contributor in the efforts to mitigate climate change, the flagships project was awarded €5m ($5.9m) of funding in 2018 from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020.
Under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), the project received funding under the conditions that it deployed two hydrogen vessels in France and Norway.
The project’s initial plan was to deploy a hydrogen push-boat in the French city of Lyon, but as the broader potential for hydrogen in cargo transport emerged, the demo pusher was changed to an inland cargo vessel.
The shift in focus is based on Sogestran Group’s experience gained in Belgium, where Blue Line Logistics (BLL), another subsidiary of the Sogestran Group, operates three cargo vessels sailing under the concept name Zulu.
One Zulu vessel has been put into operation in Paris, with an additional two Zulu ships 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.