Scottish Yard Builds First-Ever Hydrogen Ropax Ferry

Ferguson Marine's shipyard (file image courtesy Ferguson)

Published Jun 20, 2018 5:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ferguson Marine, a commercial shipbuilder on the River Clyde, Scotland, has won a bid for EU funding towards the world's first ever seagoing hydrogen-powered ropax ferry. 

“We are aiming to launch the first hydrogen ferry by 2021. There are a few European groups in the market with similar ambitions, but we believe ours can be the first vessel on this scale and we still expect to be the world’s first vehicle and passenger hydrogen ferry," said Ferguson spokesman John Morgan. 

The HySeas III project is led by Ferguson Marine and the University of St. Andrews. Their consortium also includes Kongsberg, Ballard Power Systems Europe, hydrogen fuel supplier McPhy, German aerospace agency DLR and ferry industry association Interferry. Funding will be provided under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and development program. 

The initial objective is to construct and test the vessel’s drive train on shore using load conditions derived from real-world vessels. The ferry project will employ Ballard's power system technology, which has been used successfully for millions of miles of over-the-road transportation. While the partners did not disclose the details of the system, Ballard specializes in fuel cells. 

The HySeas project is also notable for the source of its hydrogen. The HySeas III will operate in and around the Orkney Islands, where hydrogen is already being produced in volume from excess renewable energy that would otherwise go to waste. This eliminates the carbon emissions associated with producing hydrogen from fossil fuels, which are used to create roughly 95 percent of the world's hydrogen supply. 

HySeas III will not be not Ferguson's first "first" in green propulsion. In 2012, the yard launched the Hallaig, the world’s first battery hybrid ferry. The yard achieved another first in November 2017 when it launched the Glen Sannox, the first UK ferry build with dual-fuel capability (marine diesel and LNG). The Glen Sannox's sister vessel is currently under construction.