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French Group to Launch World’s First Commercial Hydrogen Cargo Vessel

hydrogen powered lallet barge planned for France
The hydrogen pallet barge will use the same design as Zulu 2 which is currently operating on conventional fuel (Blue Line Logistics)

Published Apr 7, 2021 2:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Inland shipping is continuing to move forward in the race to launch the first hydrogen-powered vessels. A European project announced that it will deploy the world’s first commercial cargo transport vessel operating on hydrogen, sailing in Paris along the Seine river in 2021.

The vessel, which will be a pallet shuttle barge measuring 164 feet in length, will operate on compressed hydrogen produced from electrolysis, enabling according to the project organizers not only zero-emission operations, but also creating a solid base for more local zero-emission transport, both at sea and on land. The power generation system for the Zulu vessel will be supplied by ABB Marine & Ports, with fuel cells from Ballard. LMG Marin is responsible for the detail design drawings, with hydrogen provided by suppliers in the Paris region.

“Green and sustainable shipping is a prerequisite for reaching national and international emission reduction targets. Ships powered by renewable hydrogen will make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions from shipping and improving air quality in cities and other densely populated areas,” says Flagships Project Coordinator Jyrki Mikkola from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The vessel is being developed as part of the Flagships project ,which is a consortium of 12 European partners in the shipping industry. The Flagships project was awarded EUR 5 million of funding in 2018 from the EU’s Research and Innovation Program Horizon 2020, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), to deploy two hydrogen vessels in France and Norway. The project’s initial plan was to deploy a hydrogen push-boat in the Lyon area, but as the broader potential for hydrogen in cargo transport emerged, the demo pusher was changed to an inland cargo vessel.

The partnership is working with the French inland shipowner Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (CFT), a subsidiary of the Sogestran Group, which will own and operate the vessel. Sogetran’s Blue Line Logistics was the first company to deploy the pallet shuttle barge concept with vessels known as Zulu in 2014 in Belgium and in France. The group is successfully operating three Zulu vessels and has two additional vessels under construction.

The Flagships project will install the hydrogen power generation system on one of the newbuilds, scheduled for delivery in September 2021.

“As we move through the energy transition, hydrogen technologies are gaining traction in the maritime sector. Flagships is a very exciting project for us since it is leading the way to demonstrate how vessels operating on green hydrogen can decarbonize urban rivers. By translating technological innovations into commercial operations we can make zero-emissions inland vessels a reality in every European city!,” says Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director at FCH JU.