Holland Shipyards Group (HSG) will retrofit Future Proof Shipping’s inland vessel Maas to a zero-emissions hydrogen propulsion system. After months of energy profiling, the 110 x 11.45-metre container ship will be retrofitted at the HSG yard in Hardinxveld throughout Q3 2021 to be delivered in December.

As part of the retrofit, the internal combustion technology will be replaced with hydrogen technology, removing both the main engine and gearbox, and installing a new modular propulsion system. This will consist of electric motors, hydrogen tanks, a PEM fuel cell system (necessary for converting hydrogen into electricity) and a battery system.

Once back in service, the Maas will carry on shipping container cargo between Rotterdam and Antwerp and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2000 CO2e tonnes annually.

Hydrogen and fuel cell system in cargo space

The hydrogen and fuel cell system will be installed in the vessel’s cargo space, with the hydrogen being placed above the fuel cell system in two 40ft containers (approximately 1000 kg at 300 bar). The compressed hydrogen tanks, the fuel cells and the battery system are separate units that can be removed for maintenance or replacement purposes.

The decision to install them in the cargo hold was actually born out of necessity and is related to the lack of regulations for this revolutionary technology. Existing regulations do not allow fuel cells to be installed in the engine room. ‘We are now using the engine room for the large electric motor, the switch boxes and the battery pack,’ says Fokke van der Veen, director of operations at Future Proof Shipping (FPS).

The fuel cell system will be triple redundant with 825 kW capacity (to supply propulsion and auxiliary power) and a 504 kWh lithium-ion battery pack for peak shaving, secondary and bridging power. The system will contain a 750V DC bus bar and an e-motor for propulsion.

Tender for hydrogen installation

The Maas will run on green hydrogen. Van der Veen does not comment on the costs. ‘We’ve thought about it carefully. But you can’t put a figure on it. You’ll have to take a more holistic view.’

Work on the development of the system had already been going on for several years in the Felmar (First ELEMENT MARine) consortium, in which Nedstack, MARIN, Damen Shipyards, FPS, Marine Service Noord and Holland Ship Electric participate. According to Van der Veen, the purchase of the installation is now in the tendering phase and it has not yet been decided who will supply the installation. ‘There are several suppliers.’

From battery technology to hydrogen propulsion system

Both HSG and FPS have distinguished themselves from the traditional market by actively seeking out and embracing projects with environmental sustainability at their core – HSG on the shipbuilding side, and FPS as a tonnage provider by offering zero-emissions vessels for charter to cargo-owners and other shippers.

‘Over the past few years, HSG has gained profound experience in building vessels with sustainable propulsion methods,’ says Leendert Hoogendoorn, Director at HSG. ‘It has led to battery technology becoming increasingly standard in our projects. As we are always investigating renewable sources, logically the next step is to extend our experience with propulsion methods suitable for (much) larger operational envelopes. Retrofitting a vessel to run on a hydrogen propulsion system fits perfectly within our ambition to work on a greener and more sustainable shipping industry.’

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Richard Klatten, CEO FPS, adds: ‘FPS is excited to be working together with HSG on the retrofitting of the Maas to run entirely on hydrogen,’ says . ‘This future-proof ship will truly be a zero-emissions vessel, a vessel to forge the way for a greener and more sustainable inland shipping industry.’


This innovative project is supported by funding from the Dutch RVO (Subsidie Duurzaam Scheepvaart scheme), Interreg North Sea Programme (via the ZEM Ports NS project), and a stimulation scheme for sustainable inland shipping from the Port of Rotterdam, which is executed by the Expertise en InnovatieCentrum Binnenvaart (EICB).

Over the next five years FPS wants to convert another ten inland and shortsea ships for zero-emission transport.

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