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World’s first hydrogen-powered tugboat Hydrotug 1 ready to begin operations

The first hydrogen-powered tugboat is ready for operation in the Antwerp port area. Developed in a partnership between the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and the Savery family’s CMB.TECH, the vessel is reported to be the largest vessel currently capable of operating solely on hydrogen.

It will be used both as a test vessel and a demonstration of the potential for hydrogen as a marine fuel. CEO of the port authority, Jacques Vandermeiren, highlights that the port with its diverse ecosystem and operations is “an ideal test bed” for this technology on a large scale.

After spending the past few months in Antwerp undergoing final testing and certification by Lloyd’s, the vessel, Hydrotug 1, will be in full operation at the port in 2024. The project was first announced in 2019 and designed to use a combustion engine instead of fuel cells to demonstrate the potential for hydrogen as a marine fuel.

Hydrotug 1 is the first vessel that uses the BeHydro V12 dual fuel medium speed engines. The vessel, which is 98ft (30m) in length, has two of the 2 MW V12 engines and is a tractor tug with 65-ton bollard pull capabilities.

Hydrotug 1 can store 415kg of compressed hydrogen in six stillages installed on deck. The capacity will give the vessel 24 hours of operation.

The order to build the tug went to the Armón Shipyards in Navia, Spain where it was launched on 16 May 2022. A year ago, they transferred the vessel to Belgium, choosing Ostende as the port already had hydrogen facilities as it is the homeport for CMB.TECH’s HYDROCAT 48, the first hydrogen-powered offshore crew transfer vessel.

The tug was undergoing outfitting, including the installation of its unique engines, and initial testing while in Ostende before arriving in Antwerp on 23 October 2023. The project however is about a year behind the originally anticipated schedule as they dealt with the pandemic and challenges in executing the concepts for the first tug.

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