Scotland’s Ferguson Shipbuilders have managed to secure funding through the EU project HySeas III. With partners such as the Ballard or DLR and from different European countries they will build the world’s first sea going ferry running on fuel cells powered by hydrogen from renewables.
The supported development of the first hydrogen ferry ready to sail the world’s oceans is expected to cost around 12.6 million euros.
HySeas III is jointly led by Ferguson Marine based at Port Glasgow and the University of St Andrews. It includes Orkney Islands Council, Kongsberg Maritime (Norway), Ballard Power Systems Europe (Denmark), McPhy (France); the German aerospace agency (DLR) and Interferry (Belgium/US), a ferry owners’ organisation.
Employing Ballard technology, the initial objective is to construct and prove the vessel’s modular drive train onshore, testing for stress and durability under conditions employing real-world data from existing vessels.
Once the first ferry is then completed, the hydrogen-powered ship will first go on test runs around Orkney Island from 2020 or latest 2021. This testing phase is to ensure that the vessel is fully ready to take on the waves and distances of the open sea eventually and that more may be build.
Hydrogen will be produced from renewable electricity that is produced on and around Orkney already. Says Project Coordinator, Dr Martin Smith, from the University of St Andrews: “This opens the real possibility of Scotland and her key European partners delivering another world-first, not simply in shipbuilding but also in building sustainable local sources of fuelling in parallel.”
It is also a timely development given that the U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently made the first ever deal to curb emissions from the shipping industry. 173 countries agreed at a London meeting to reduce emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 from 2008 levels.
Other initiatives have been looking into hybrid or battery-electric ferries serving shorter routes but only a few have been looked into hydrogen as fuel for their ferry. HySeas III Communications Manager, John Morgan of Ferguson Marine, admits, “there are a few European groups in the market with similar ambitions,” take the fuel cell cruise liner pilot from ABB for example, but HySeas III “still expect to be the world’s first vehicle and passenger Hydrogen ferry,” Morgan concludes.