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European innovation project FLAGSHIPs has received European Union funding to support the deployment of two commercially-operated hydrogen fuel cell vessels in France and Norway

In Lyon, a hydrogen push-boat operated by Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT) will serve as a utility vessel on the Rhône. In Stavanger, hydrogen will be used to power a passenger and car ferry operated by Norled as part of the local public transport network.

The funds awarded to the FLAGSHIPS project have been granted from the European Union’s (EU) Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.

Both the EU and the shipping industry see hydrogen as a key contributor in the work to mitigate climate change. The FLAGSHIPS project sets out to raise the readiness of hydrogen-powered waterborne transport to a new level globally,’ says Senior Scientist and Project Manager Antti Pohjoranta, from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, who will be coordinating the project.

The intention is that both vessels will run on hydrogen produced from renewable energy. This will not only enable zero-emission operation of the ships, but also create a solid basis for further local zero-emission transport deployment both at sea as well as on land.

‘Norled has taken a leading role in the development of zero emission ferries. This innovation project will be an important next step when it comes to proving the maritime fuel cell technology and illustrating its business viability. By leveraging knowhow from existing onshore and marine system integration activities the project will also reduce the cost of marine fuel cell power systems significantly,’ says Norled CTO, Sigvald Breivik.

This innovation project will look at the potential to replace biodiesel with hydrogen on one of the ferries to be built for the Finnøy-route north east of Stavanger. The route serves several islands with short and frequent stops, which makes it difficult to achieve the shore charging required for battery-powered vessels.

Norled’s intention is to apply the hydrogen technology being developed by the company for several other ongoing hydrogen-related projects, such as building the world’s first ship powered by liquid hydrogen for the Hjelmeland connection in Western Norway.

In addition to the project funding, additional investment to build the ships is made by the ship owners CFT and Norled, as well as other consortium partners.

An important part of the project will also be the building of European support networks covering hydrogen fuel supply chains, vessel design and manufacturing competence networks as well as significantly broad-based regulatory expertise.

‘FLAGSHIPS is a key project to demonstrate the superior features of hydrogen fuel cells in the maritime sector: lower CO2 and pollutant emissions and reduced noise amongst the most critical. The project will cooperate with relevant organisation such as CESNI, IMO and certification bodies to speed up the introduction of hydrogen for the maritime sector both for inland and coastal operations and for freight and passenger transportation,’ commented Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the FCH2 JU.

The consortium includes nine European partners, with two ship owners Norled and CFT, the maritime OEM ABB, and design company LMG Marin. Fuel cell technology is provided by Ballard Europe and vessel energy monitoring and management by PersEE.
Management, dissemination activities and maritime hydrogen safety expertise are provided by VTT and industry cluster NCE Maritime CleanTech. Westcon Power & Automation is expected to officially join the consortium soon.

The project started on January 1st, 2019 and the hydrogen ships will start operation during 2021.

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