Fuel cell vessel project

Japanese firms partner up on commercialisation of high-power fuel cell vessels

Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has approved the participation of NYK Line, Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, ClassNK, and ENEOS Corporation in a demonstration project for the commercialization of high-power fuel cell (FC) vessels.


The project, which will begin this month, is Japan’s first effort to develop a commercially available FC vessel and carry out a demonstration operation involving the supply of hydrogen fuel.

By using FCs as a power source, it will be possible to completely eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during navigation, according to NYK.

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The five companies intend to develop an about 150-tonne class high-power FC vessel that will function as a medium-sized tourist ship able to accommodate around 100 passengers. In 2024, the companies plan to carry out a demonstration operation of the FC vessel together with a demonstration supply of hydrogen fuel.

“We will begin an FC vessel and hydrogen-fuel-supply feasibility study in September 2020 and start designing the vessel and hydrogen-fuel-supply equipment in 2021. Construction and production is expected to start in 2023, and pilot operation of the vessel along the coast of Yokohama port is scheduled to begin in 2024,” the Japanese quintet said.

With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, global momentum for decarbonization has increased, and reducing GHG emissions has become an issue in the shipping sector. In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal of halving GHG emissions from the international shipping sector by 2050 and reaching a target of zero as early as the end of this century.

The utilization of FC systems in transport beyond passenger cars is cited as an issue in the action plan of industry, academia, and government for the realization of a hydrogen society in the “Strategy for Developing Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Technologies” formulated by the Japanese government in 2019. From the development of small FC vessels — gross tonnage less than 20 tonne — that have already been promoted in Japan, the spread and expansion of high-power FC to larger vessels is expected.

Specifically, the companies will target newly constructed domestic vessels in the entire vessel value chain — hydrogen equipment development, hull design and construction, operation, fuel supply –, focusing on the following items:

  1. Implementation of high-power FC system on vessels and development of operation technology;
  2. Development of onboard hydrogen fuel supply system/equipment; development of energy management system (EMS) combining FC and storage battery;
  3. Development of hydrogen fuel supply system;
  4. Application to vessels through new vessel design and development (i.e., newly design and develop the vessel’s hull so that it can optimally operate with FC as power).
Image Courtesy: NYK

As informed, NYK Line will be responsible for project management, ship design and legal compliance, Toshiba for the implementation of high-power FC system on vessels and the development of operation technology, Kawasaki for the development of onboard hydrogen fuel supply system and EMS, Class NK for the safety assessment of the ship and ENEOS for the development of hydrogen fuel supply system.

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