MSC Group, Fincantieri and Snam have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to determine the conditions for the design and construction of what would become the world’s first oceangoing hydrogen-powered cruise ship. The partnership will initially conduct a feasibility study to examine the requirements to build such a ship and its supply infrastructure.

Together, the companies seek to bring attention to the need for the take up of hydrogen fuel in shipping to achieve decarbonisation and attract public and private investments to make this possible at scale. The initiative is also part of MSC’s goal of achieving net carbon neutral operations by 2050.

Green hydrogen can be produced without fossil fuels, using renewable energy to split water in a process called electrolysis and can therefore be emission-free on a full lifecycle basis. It can be used to generate electrical power through a fuel cell, emitting only water vapour and heat. This type of “green” hydrogen holds great potential to contribute to the decarbonisation of the shipping industry, including cruising, whether in its pure form or as a hydrogen-derived fuel.

Technical and economic feasibility

As per the terms of the MoU, during the next twelve months the three companies will study key factors related to the development of oceangoing hydrogen-powered cruise ships. These include arranging ship spaces to accommodate H2 technologies and fuel cells, technical parameters of onboard systems, calculating the potential greenhouse gas emissions savings, and a technical and economic analysis of hydrogen supply and infrastructure.

‘We want to put ourselves at the forefront of the energy revolution for our sector and hydrogen can greatly contribute to this,’ says Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group. ‘As we advance with the development of the maritime technology required, we will also see that energy providers take note and ramp up production to unlock this, and that governments and the public sector step in to provide the necessary support for a project that is critical to the decarbonisation of cruising and shipping.’

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Marco Alverà, CEO of international energy infrastructure operator Snam, adds: ‘This agreement for us is part of a wider strategy to leverage on our experience, competences and technologies in green gases and energy efficiency in order to contribute to the full decarbonisation of the shipping value chain, including ports and logistics, which will be increasingly crucial in our economies.’