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Svitzer signs accord with Canada’s Robert Allan for design of world’s first fuel cell tug

Towage operator Svitzer, part of A.P. Moller-Maersk, has signed an agreement with Canadian naval architect company Robert Allan Ltd. for the design of the world’s first fuel cell tug for harbour operations, running on green methanol. It will function as a pilot for future Svitzer newbuilds. It is slated to enter service within the Svitzer Europe region by Q1 2024.

“Fuel cells will be applicable as main propulsion power for tugs earlier than for larger vessels, and further, the time to build a tug is significantly less than for a container vessel,” said Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, global COO of Svitzer.

She added: “Svitzer will obtain valuable knowledge and operational experience handling fuel cells as an alternative to diesel or pure electric power. We consider this project a significant step in Svitzer’s ambition to lead the decarbonisation of towage and an important contribution to the joint efforts to develop solutions with a positive impact on the environment.”

The Vancouver-based Canadian naval architect and marine engineering firm recently unveiled a design for a methanol-fuelled crew transfer vessel for the offshore wind industry. Maersk and Svitzer are jointly exploring the combination of methanol fuel cells, batteries, storage/handling systems, electric drives and propulsion units as a carbon neutral alternative to the conventional fossil fuelled propulsion train.

The 80-ton bollard pull newbuild tug will come with a hybrid electric propulsion system solution where fuel cells can be dimensioned to deliver a specific amount of sustained bollard pull using fuel cells alone, adding additional power from the batteries during the short but often frequent peaks that characterises towage. The fuel cells can be used to charge the batteries when the tug is mobilising and when the tug is berthed, minimising the need for shore-side charging facilities.

Jim Hyslop, Director of Project Development, Robert Allan Ltd, commented: “Robert Allan Ltd. is very excited to be working with Svitzer on the development of this new tug design. It is refreshing to work with an operator with such a progressive and forward-thinking attitude and this move towards drastically reducing tug emissions is a bold step. By taking the lead with this technologically advanced project, Svitzer and Maersk are making true and meaningful progress towards a greener future in the tug industry. Robert Allan Ltd. is proud to be a part of this team and we look forward to the challenges and opportunities that this innovative vessel will bring.”

Svitzer photo of signing ceremony features Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard and Mike Fitzpatrick, President of Robert Allan.