Svitzer takes design of world’s first methanol fuel cell tug to next phase

Towage operator Svitzer, part of A.P. Moller – Maersk, has launched the second phase of its project to design the world’s first methanol hybrid fuel cell (MHFC) tug.

Courtesy of Svitzer

In the first phase, Svitzer conducted technical studies to establish the feasibility of this type of vessel accommodating the real-world operation requirement of a tug.

Now, the project is entering the second phase in which Svitzer will work with naval architect company Robert Allan Ltd. to complete the vessel design, scope considerations for vessel construction, and onboard equipment selection necessary to build the vessel.

The MHFC tug will use an electrical propulsion system with methanol fuel cells and batteries while secondary methanol-fuelled generators will provide backup power if required.

Calculations indicate that the MHFC tug running on green methanol would prevent approximately 1,300 tonnes of CO2 annually from being emitted into the atmosphere, compared to fossil-fuel-based vessels of the same dimensions within Svitzer’s global fleet.  

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The design of the tug will be based on Svitzer’s TRAnsverse tug. Besides the partnership with Robert Allan, Svitzer said it is looking to forge partnerships with other companies to finalise the selection of onboard equipment, such as the batteries and fuel cell system, and to support construction once the design phase is complete. 

The MHFC tug is expected to enter operations in the second half of 2025 at the Port of Gothenburg in Sweden, where methanol is the low-carbon alternative fuel of choice. 

Gareth Prowse, Head of Decarbonisation at Svitzer, said: “We’re excited to enter the next phase of delivering the world’s first methanol hybrid fuel cell tug. This project is a major milestone in Svitzer’s commitment to the decarbonisation of our global fleet and demonstrates our ability to harness new technologies and alternative fuels to deliver innovations that will have a significant, positive impact on shipping’s road to net zero.” 

Göran Eriksson, Port of Gothenburg CEO, commented: “The Port of Gothenburg has set ambitious targets to reduce shipping emissions within the port area by 70% by 2030. To deliver on that ambition, the transition of shipping lines from fossil fuels to more sustainable fuels such as green methanol is critically important.

“Svitzer’s decision to design and construct the world’s first methanol hybrid fuel cell tug is a major milestone which sets the example for the long-term decarbonisation of global towage services. We’re excited to welcome this pioneering new vessel to the Port of Gothenburg when it enters into operation in 2025.” 

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