CMB.TECH Leads Effort to Build Four Hydrogen-Powered Shortsea Cargo Vessels

hydrogen shortsea cargo vessel
The vessels use an innovative design that provides space for hydrogen or other alternative power systems (Boeckmans)

Published Nov 29, 2023 3:56 PM by The Maritime Executive


Plans were announced for four hydrogen-powered general cargo vessels as the Saverys continue to push forward on multiple fronts with their efforts to develop what they are calling future-proof shipping. The announcement of the order for the cargo ships follows the news yesterday that they have also expanded their order for hydrogen-powered Commission Service Operation Vessels (CSOV) for the offshore wind sector.

Through their company CMB.TECH and in a partnership with Belgian shipowner and operators of shortsea vessels Boeckmans, the Saverys will build four hydrogen-powered vessels. They will be 5,000 dwt general cargo vessels suited for shortsea routes and designed to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions.

“By embracing innovative propulsion systems such as hydrogen, we are not just building ships; we are working toward a greener future for global trade routes,” said Alexander Saverys, CEO of CMB.TECH, announcing the order.

The vessels will be built at the Dung Quat shipyard in Vietnam with the first vessel expected to be delivered in the second half of 2025. The partnership said they will be deployed on major sea routes, including northern Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and West Africa.

The four vessels will be based on an innovative design developed jointly with Dutch shipping company Handelskade. The concept places conventional diesel-electric engines under the ship’s forward accommodations block. As such they are also making the stern area available for alternate propulsion systems, such as hydrogen or other alternative low-carbon engines. This configuration also provides ample space available for the storage of these alternative fuel sources away from the accommodations.

“The ship’s primary design philosophy is to achieve lower emissions through hull shaping, innovative design, and the application of the latest technologies,” explains Pierre Durot, Director of Boeckmans.

By optimizing the design for the hull and the vessel’s operations, Durot highlights that they have already achieved a 40 percent reduction in emissions compared to traditional general cargo vessels operating with diesel propulsion.

“This can be reduced even further by implementing new sustainable propulsion systems,” says Durot.  “The ship’s diesel-electric configuration simplifies the integration of new systems into the power grid and creates storage space for fuels such as hydrogen.”

The Saverys look to increase the use of alternative fuels including hydrogen and ammonia in all segments of the shipping industry. They have previously announced plans for a large bulker using alternative fuels. Yesterday, they confirmed that they have expanded an order with Damen Shipbuilding Group to five CSOVs that will be powered by hydrogen. They reported that construction has already begun on the first of the vessels and they will incorporate a hydrogen propulsion system similar to the technology used for the first hydrogen-powered crew transfer vessel.

Outlining their vision for the future, the Saverys detailed with their plans for tanker company Euronav efforts to accelerate the use of alternative fuels. They look to lead the shipping industry in the adoption of new power sources including ammonia and hydrogen.