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Svitzer launches second phase of design project for methanol hybrid fuel cell tug

Svitzer, a leading global towage provider and part of A.P. Moller-Maersk, has launched the second phase of its project to design the world’s first methanol hybrid fuel cell (MHFC) tug.


Svitzer has conducted technical studies to establish the feasibility of this type of vessel accommodating the real-world operational requirements of a tug. Work will now begin between Svitzer and leading naval architect company, Robert Allan Ltd. to design the first methanol hybrid fuel cell (MHFC) tug. The next phase will include work to complete the vessel design, scope considerations for vessel construction, and onboard equipment selection necessary to build the vessel.

The MHFC tug will use an electrical propulsion system with methanol fuel cells and batteries delivering a self-sustained tug with longer endurance and fewer operational constraints than a purely battery-powered vessel.

Secondary methanol-fueled generators will provide backup power if required without the need for a secondary fuel. Calculations indicate that the MHFC tug running on green methanol would prevent approximately 1,300 tonnes of CO2 annually from being emitted into the atmosphere, compared to fossil-fuel-based vessels of the same dimensions within Svitzer’s global fleet.

The design of the MHFC tug will be a joint project between Svitzer and Robert Allan Ltd. using Svitzer’s TRAnsverse tug design as the platform. The TRAnsverse Tug is able to generate higher steering forces than most designs of similar dimensions and comes with an innovative staple design and unique ability to push, pull and maneuver in all directions.

With omni-directional hull form and propulsion, steering forces over the full range of speeds & maneuvers, and a unique towing arrangement, the compact and more fuel-efficient TRAnsverse Tug is scalable and suitable for all types of harbour and terminal towage operations.

In collaboration with Robert Allan, the first conventional Svitzer TRAnsverse Tug will be built for harbor towage in Svitzer Europe, with expected delivery in Q3 2023.

Svitzer will look to forge partnerships with other companies to finalize the selection of onboard equipment for the MHFC tug, such as the batteries and fuel cell system, and to support construction once the design phase is complete.

The MHFC is expected to enter operations in the second half of 2025 at the Port of Gothenburg in Sweden, where methanol is the low-carbon alternative fuel of choice.



Its great to see better alternatives coming through for marine, as a single boat, even one of fairly modest specs, can turn out hundreds of times as much CO2 as a typical car, aside from pollutants.

Having a secondary conventional generator running on methanol is a great way of combining the different attributes of systems, and cuts costs over a purely fuel cell/battery system.

And they integrate well, as fuel cells are more efficient at lower loads:

This may be too much of a generalisation, as I am not sure if this applies to all sorts of fuel cells, but AFAIK it applies to those we are currently considering putting in and are at relatively high levels of technical readiness.

Diesel engines in contrast hate running at low loads and idling, and work most efficiently when they are under high load.

All of which means that it is great to combine them.

The usage profile in the specific application of a tug boat would be interesting to know, as they are either running around pushing a ( comparatively ) light vessel, or have a vast load under tow, when I would assume the generators would kick in.


I had a look to try to find out what methanol fuel cell Maersk is using.
Poking around though, they seem to be involved in both SOFC:

That one seems to be focussed on using ammonia though, so to my considerable pleasure this seems to be likely to be HTPEM:

The reason for my enthusiam is that although it is high temperature, it is way lower than SOFC, and so can be got up to temperature way easier and is less demanding in materials,

If they run on pure hydrogen, they are very tolerant of impurities, which cuts out much of the expense of producing transport grade hydrogen.

They are a great contender for aeroplanes, and when used in a methanol fuel cell, would make great range extenders for cars as well as boats.

Of course, the tech is not done and dusted yet, but can potentially at least lift fuel cells to a whole new level.

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