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Port of Antwerp converting tug to methanol propulsion; becoming a multi-fuel port

The Port of Antwerp is converting a tug to methanol propulsion. The ‘methatug’ is part of the European Union-funded Fastwater project, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable marine fuel. The European Commission approved the project this week.

Methanoltug

Rhine-based inland navigation craft must comply with the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine’s (CCNR) regulations, which had previously forbidden the use of methanol as a marine fuel. To receive the necessary dispensation, the methatug project was therefore submitted to the CESNI, the European committee that administers overall standards for inland navigation.

The clearance process, which took 18 months of detailed negotiations, was finally agreed by European Commission earlier this year. The methatug is now expected be operational early 2022.

The methatug is part of the Fastwater project, which was set up by a group of European maritime research and technology leaders, including Port of Antwerp. The consortium aims to demonstrate the feasibility of renewable methanol as a future-proof fuel for carbon-neutral shipping. The methatug development has been funded by the European research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Besides Port of Antwerp, which is supplying the tugboat, several other partners are involved in this project. The Belgian engineering company, Multi, carried out the feasibility study for the project. Swedish shipbuilder, Scandinaos, designed the vessel’s modifications, ABC (Anglo Belgian Corporation) is responsible for converting the engine and for installing the methanol tanks and pipes, while the German company, Heinzmann, is adapting the injectors.

This marine fuel first forms part of a comprehensive greening program for Port of Antwerp's own fleet, in which the organization will systematically strive to integrate the most environmentally friendly technologies available. The port of Antwerp, the fifth-largest bunkering port in the world, has integrated LNG into its bunkering market in the past few years.

By 2025, it aims to become a fully-fledged multi-fuel port, in which seagoing and inland vessels will be able to bunker, not only conventional fuels, but also low-carbon alternatives such as methanol, hydrogen or electricity.

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