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Retrofitted cargo vessel powered by hydrogen fuel could revolutionize shipping industry: 'A clean solution is viable and profitable'

"We are thrilled to see a high-power container vessel being converted to zero-emission."

"We are thrilled to see a high-power container vessel being converted to zero-emission."

Photo Credit: Holland Shipyards Group

A retrofitted cargo ship to be used on the Rhine River between The Netherlands and Germany is expected to produce lower carbon dioxide pollution than comparative vessels while still making regular trips.

The H2 Barge 2 from Dutch shipowner Future Proof Shipping is powered by hydrogen, and it could revolutionize the short-haul shipping industry.

As the American Journal of Transportation observed, the ship has the potential to reduce 3,000 tons of carbon gas annually, and the publication says the H2 Barge 2 proves freight journeys on the Rhine can be "fully zero emission already today" if all were powered by hydrogen.

The H2 Barge 2 containership used to be powered by dirty fuel, but it has since been converted to clean power, suggesting that switching the powertrain of existing ships is feasible. That means companies do not need to buy new, purpose-built vessels if they want to reduce their planet-warming and water-polluting impact. 

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells, hydrogen storage, battery packs, and an electric drivetrain make up the zero-pollution propulsion system, while six fuel cells can bring the total potential power to 1.2 megawatts.

"Inland waterways are important for freight transport in Europe, we are thrilled to see a high-power container vessel being converted to zero-emission," executive director ad interim of Clean Hydrogen Partnership Mirela Atanasiu said in a statement.

A second vessel will soon be launched in Paris under the EU's Flagships project, which intends to "take zero-emission waterborne transport to an entirely new level." 

The Zulu 06 will make trips along the river Seine from late 2024, running on compressed hydrogen produced by electrolysis. 

"Relatively short distance river and canal shipping is a huge portion of global shipping," one comment on Electrek read. "If a clean solution is viable and profitable - What more do you want?"

"This is pretty big news," another user added. "Hydrogen needs to get fuel cells out onto the water to prove their effectiveness and reliability if it's ever going to be part of the solution." 

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