The first tug in the world to be powered by hydrogen will be deployed in the Port of Antwerp within two years’ time. This so-called “Hydrotug” is driven by combustion engines that burn hydrogen in combination with diesel.

The engines comply with the strictest emissions standard, EU Stage V, making them the lowest-rated for emissions on the market. The combination of dual-fuel technology with a particle filter and catalyser will ensure that the Hydrotug is ultra-low-emission. Combustion of hydrogen does not emit any CO2, and the particle filter combined with the catalyser will result in minimal emissions of NOx and particulates.

Developing Hydrogen Technology

Antwerp-based shipping company Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) will build the Hydrotug and construction is to begin shortly. With this project, CMB confirms its pioneering role in the transition to ships powered by eco-friendly fuel. Last year it already won the Sustainability Award with its “Hydroville” shuttle, a passenger ferry with limited capacity and power that also uses dual-fuel technology. This vessel is now being used for sustainable commuter transport within the port area.

Meanwhile CMB has teamed up with the Ghent-based engine builder ABC to set up the BeHydro joint venture with the aim of further developing the technology for medium-speed engines with higher power output. The Hydrotug will be the first vessel with output in the 4000 kW class to be powered by hydrogen-diesel dual fuel.

‘We are convinced of the potential of hydrogen as the key to sustainable shipping and making the energy transition of a reality,’ states Alexander Saverys, CEO of CMB. ‘The expertise that we acquire with the Hydrotug will enable us to further develop the use of hydrogen as a ship’s fuel.’

Ideal Testbed

Port of Antwerp CEO Jacques Vandermeiren says: ‘As an industrial seaport, Antwerp’s role in the energy transition should not be underestimated. We are working towards becoming a CO2-neutral port. Together with our partners we are preparing for the future in a constant search for innovative applications and opportunities. With this world first we aim to further prepare the way for alternative fuels such as hydrogen, in order to realise the transition to alternative, renewable sources of energy. At Port of Antwerp we are setting a good example with this significant step towards making our own tugs eco-friendly.’

Port alderman Annick De Ridder concludes: ‘The ecosystem represented by the Antwerp port platform is an ideal testbed for this technology on a large scale. In this way we seek to be a source of inspiration and to set an example for other ports.’