CMB eyes hydrogen-powered boxships

European shipping giant Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) has debuted its own hydrogen-powered vessel, a first step it says on the path to creating hydrogen fuelled cargo ships.

Top Belgian politicians including the deputy prime minister were in attendance yesterday for the official launch of the Hydroville, CMB’s brand new, self designed hydrogen powered ferry – the world’s first accredited passenger vessel powered by hydrogen in a diesel engine.

“The advantage of hydrogen is that no CO2, atmospheric particulate matter or sulphur oxides are released during combustion,” CMB stated in a release.

“The catamaran is first and foremost a pilot project to test hydrogen technology for applications in large seafaring ships,” CMB stated.

The shuttle will also commute daily between Kruibeke and Antwerp during peak times, to provide CMB employees with efficient, environmentally-friendly transport to and from the office.

CMB said it opted for combustion engines because it felt batteries or fuel cells are less suitable for heavy transport.

“The batteries required for an application of this kind would be so huge that their cost and weight would make them economically unfeasible. The time it takes to charge that kind of battery would be problematic as well. Fuel cells offer more possibilities in that area, but the high cost makes them less suitable for large-scale commercial transport,” CMB stated.

The next plan is to equip a CMB containership with a hydrogen-powered auxiliary engine.

The Hydroville is 14 m long, can take 16 passengers, and has a maximum speed of 27 knots.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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