The First Tug in the World with Methanol Fuel Cells

The world’s first fuel cell harbour tug, running on green methanol, is set to be developed by Svitzer, part of Maersk. The subject project will carve the path for future Svitzer newbuilds of this kind while it is scheduled to start operation within the Svitzer Europe region by Q1 2024.

Svitzer has partnered with Robert Allan, a Canadian naval architect with the scope of designing the green methanol-fuelled vessel. Robert, who recently released to the public his development of a methanol-fuelled crew transfer vessel to serve the offshore wind industry, will along with Svitzer exercise the concept of methanol fuel cells, batteries, storage/handling systems, electric drives and propulsion units as a carbon-neutral alternative to the conventional fossil-fuelled propulsion train.

The innovative tug boat design will provide a bollard pull of 80 tons while the fuel cells alone have the ability to deliver a specific amount of pull and along with the battery packs will excel during the short but often frequent peaks of the operation. Moreover, as with most hybrid systems, the newbuild tug will be able to charge its batteries through the fuel cells in an effort to minimize the need for shore-side charging facilities.

“Fuel cells will be applicable as main propulsion power for tugs earlier than for larger vessels, and further, the time to build a tug is significantly less than for a container vessel. Svitzer will obtain valuable knowledge and operational experience handling fuel cells as an alternative to diesel or pure electric power. We consider this project a significant step in Svitzer’s ambition to lead the decarbonisation of towage and an important contribution to the joint efforts to develop solutions with a positive impact on the environment.”

Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, global COO of Svitzer

In view of the subject project, there is an ulterior motive to extract and thus introduce the feasibility knowledge and operational experience of sustainable fuels from near-shore small-scale tugs to larger ocean-going vessels.

Photo: Svitzer