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Hydrogen-Powered Autonomous Containership Receives $15M in Funding

hydrogen powered remote-controlled autonomous containership
SeaShuttle would be a autonomous, remotely controlled containership powered with hydrogen (Samskip)

Published Jun 23, 2022 1:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

A project to develop hydrogen-powered, remotely controlled, and autonomous-ready containerships is moving forward with a funding grant from Norway. The project, which is being led by the Dutch intermodal transport company Samskip and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity, targets launching by 2025 saying it could enable one of Europe’s first green corridors.

Called SeaShuttle, the project calls for two vessels that would operate between Norway’s Oslofjord and Rotterdam in the Netherlands each with a capacity of 500 TEU. The Samskip-Ocean Infinity partnership covers both the construction and operation of the ships, in a collaboration that seeks to push forward towards zero-emission, efficient and safe, multimodal logistics. Each of the SeaShuttles would be powered by a 3.2MW hydrogen fuel cell.

Announced in April 2022, the project is taking its next step forward with a $15 million funding commitment from ENOVA. The state enterprise which operates under Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment, is designed to promote a shift towards more environmentally friendly energy consumption and production, as well as technologies based on sustainable energy.

“Securing this funding provides a platform to make emissions-free container shipping a reality,” said Are Gråthen, CEO of Samskip Norway. “Together, Samskip and Ocean Infinity will also accelerate their plans to advance autonomous ship technologies, and remote operation of ships and cargo handling equipment.”

According to the companies, SeaShuttle could create what amounted to one of Europe’s first zero-emission green corridors and serve as a demonstration for other projects. Several other projects are also under development to launch in Norway, but they are focusing on short sea routes. Work began last year on building a pair of autonomous, all-electric ro/ro cargo vessels for Norwegian grocery distributor Asko. They will operate crossing the Oslofjord, while Furniture manufacturer Ekornes announced it was partnering with German logistic company DB Schenker along with design firm Naval Dynamics for the study of the new autonomous vessel to operate on a 23-mile route in Norway. Yara has also begun testing on the Yara Birkeland targeting completing certification for autonomous operations by 2024.

Christoffer Jorgenvag, CCO, Ocean Infinity, commented: “Ocean Infinity’s enabling technologies can facilitate green corridors but also the broader decarbonization and transformation of maritime operations. The emphasis today is on the SeaShuttle vessels, which are just part of Ocean Infinity’s overall strategy of unlocking innovation to deliver truly sustainable maritime operations.”

The companies said that the funding means the partners can move forward to contract for two new 500TEU ships installed with a main propulsion solution that can be adapted to run on hydrogen fuel. A diesel-electric propulsion plant will also be on board as backup, although Gråthen emphasized, “We have faith that green hydrogen will be affordable and available in Norway.”