The European Flagships innovation project will deploy the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial freight ship, crisscrossing the Seine in Paris. Commercial operations are expected to begin in 2021.

The hydrogen cargo ship will be the property of the French river ship owner Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT), a subsidiary of the Sogestran group. The company is currently developing a new urban distribution activity with transport vessels in the Paris region.

The ship will run on compressed hydrogen produced by electrolysis, not only enabling zero-emission operations, but also creating a solid foundation for more local, zero-emission transport, both at sea and on land. LMG Marin is responsible for the detailed plans, with hydrogen supplied by suppliers in the Paris region.

“The demand for more sustainable technologies in river transport is on the rise. As part of the Flagships project, we are pleased to lead the way in reducing transport emissions and demonstrating the superior characteristics of hydrogen fuel cells in water-based applications ”, said Matthieu Blanc, Director by CFT.

“Green and sustainable maritime transport is a prerequisite for meeting national and international emission reduction targets. Ships powered by renewable hydrogen will make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions from maritime transport and improving air quality in cities and other densely populated areas ”, said Jyrki Mikkola, coordinator of the Flagships project of the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.

The EU and some members of the shipping industry see hydrogen as a key contributor in efforts to mitigate climate change. The flagship project received funding of € 5 million in 2018 from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), to deploy two hydrogen ships in France and Norway. The original plan for the project was to deploy a hydrogen pusher in the Lyon region, but as the wider potential of hydrogen in freight transport emerged, the demonstration pusher was replaced by an indoor freighter. The new vessel will be responsible for transporting goods on pallets and in containers along the Seine.

This change of direction is based on the experience of the Sogestran Group acquired in Belgium, where Blue Line Logistics (BLL), another subsidiary of the Sogestran Group, operates three cargo ships operating under the “Zulu” concept name. The power generation system for Zulu will be supplied by ABB Marine & Ports, using fuel cells from Ballard.

A Zulu vessel has also been put into service in Paris and two more Zulu vessels are currently under construction for the same market. The Flagships project will install a hydrogen power generation system on one of the new builds, scheduled for delivery in September 2021. Blue Line Logistics plans to run the vessel on hydrogen before the end of 2021 .

“As we move forward in the energy transition, hydrogen technologies are gaining ground in the maritime sector. Flagships is a very exciting project for us as it paves the way for demonstrating how ships running on green hydrogen can decarbonize urban rivers. By translating technological innovations into business operations, we can make zero emission inland waterway vessels a reality in every European city! ”Said Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of FCH JU.

The Flagships consortium includes 12 European partners, with two shipowners, Norled (NO) and CFT (FR) assisted by its support company Sogestion (FR) and Sogestran (FR); the OEM and integrator shipping companies ABB Marine & Ports (FI) and Westcon Power & Automation (NO); and the ship design company LMG Marin (NO & FR). State-of-the-art fuel cell technology is provided by Ballard Europe (DK), with vessel energy monitoring and management by Pers-EE (FR). Management and dissemination activities are carried out by VTT (FI) and NCE Maritime CleanTech (NO), respectively.