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The vessel, which is part of the European Flagship project and is owned by Sogestran subsidiary, Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT), is set to begin operations on the River Seine in Paris before the end of 2021.

CFT says it is currently developing a new urban distribution business with transport vessels in the Paris area.

‘The demand for more sustainable technologies in inland waterway transport is on the rise. As part of the Flagships project, we are happy to be leading the way on reducing emissions from transport and demonstrating the superior features of hydrogen fuel cells in waterborne applications,’ said CFT director, Matthieu Blanc.

‘Green and sustainable shipping is a prerequisite for reaching national and international emission reduction targets. Ships powered by renewable hydrogen will make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions from shipping and improving air quality in cities and other densely populated areas,’ added Flagships Project Coordinator Jyrki Mikkola of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The Flagships project was awarded €5 million in funding in 2018 from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), to deploy two hydrogen vessels in France and Norway. The project’s initial plan was to deploy a hydrogen push-boat in the Lyon area, but as the broader potential for hydrogen in cargo transport emerged, the direction of the project was changed to the development of an inland cargo vessel.

The shift in focus is based on Sogestran Group’s experience gained in Belgium, where group subsidiary Blue Line Logistics (BLL) operates three cargo vessels sailing under the concept name Zulu.

One Zulu vessel has already been put into operation in Paris, and another two Zulu ships are currently under construction for the same market. The Flagships project will install a hydrogen power generation system on one of the newbuilds, scheduled for delivery in September 2021. Blue Line Logistics plans to have the ship operating on hydrogen before the end of 2021. 

The vessel will operate on compressed hydrogen produced from electrolysis, enabling not only zero-emission operations, but also creating a solid base for more local zero-emission transport, both at sea and on land. The power generation system for Zulu will be supplied by ABB Marine & Ports, with fuel cells from Ballard. LMG Marin is responsible for detail design drawings, with hydrogen provided by suppliers in the Paris region.

The Flagships consortium includes 12 European partners, with two shipowners, Norled and CFT assisted by its support company Sogestion and Sogestran; maritime OEM and integrator companies ABB Marine & Ports and Westcon Power & Automation; and ship design company LMG Marin. World-leading fuel cell technology is provided by Ballard Europe), with vessel energy monitoring and management by Pers-EE. Management activities are provided by VTT and NCE Maritime CleanTech.

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