Seine set for world's first hydrogen powered cargo deliveries

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The River Seine is to host the world’s first commercial cargo transport vessel operating on hydrogen.

Hydrogen-powered pallet barge set to ply the River Seine (Image: Flagships)

Owned by inland water transport company Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT), the 164ft long vessel is being launched as part of the European Flagships project.


“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 Matthieu Blanc, director of CFT, which is a subsidiary of the Sogestran Group.

In 2018 Flagships was awarded €5m by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) to deploy two hydrogen vessels in France and Norway. According to a statement, the project’s initial plan was to deploy a hydrogen push boat in the Lyon area. Studies showed the broader potential for hydrogen in cargo transport, leading to the development of an inland cargo vessel. The new vessel will be tasked with moving goods on pallets and in containers along the Seine.

The shift in focus is based on Sogestran Group’s experience in Belgium, where Blue Line Logistics (BLL), another subsidiary of the Sogestran Group, operates three so-called ‘Zulu’ concept cargo vessels. One Zulu vessel has also been put into operation in Paris, and an additional 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, which is 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 and the power generation system for Zulu will be supplied by ABB Marine & Ports, with fuel cells from Ballard. LMG Marin is responsible for detailed design drawings, with hydrogen provided by suppliers in the Paris region.

“As we move through the energy transition, hydrogen technologies are gaining traction in the maritime sector. Flagships is a very exciting project for us, since it is leading the way to demonstrate how vessels operating on green hydrogen can decarbonise urban rivers. By translating technological innovations into commercial operations we can make zero-emissions inland vessels a reality in every European city,” said Bart Biebuyck, executive director at FCH JU.