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Methanol-powered tugboat a world first

A Port of Antwerp-Bruges tugboat has been fitted with dual-fuel engines, marking the official launch of the tugboat’s conversion to methanol.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility
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The Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Belgium has begun converting one of its tugboats to methanol in an effort to promote cleaner maritime and inland shipping. The methanol-powered tugboat’s first retrofitted dual-fuel engine was installed on 21 November 2022, with plans to install the second engine soon afterward. Once the conversion is completed, the tugboat will be able to run on both methanol and conventional fuel. “Methatug has its engines back!” the Port is reported to have written in a social media post, according to a news item posted on ‘The Maritime Executive’. “After Anglo Belgian Corporation turned them into dual-fuel engines, the first one was installed. This will allow our tugboat to run largely on methanol, when it’s finished, reducing its CO2 emissions significantly. It is yet another important step towards greening our fleet.” Considered a world first, the tug’s conversion to methanol propulsion is part of the EU-funded FASTWATER project that is promoting clean and carbon-neutral shipping through the development of methanol technology. The project’s focus on methanol is based on the belief that fuels and powertrains for waterborne transport should be scalable, sustainable and sufficiently compact so as to be easily storable.

Who contributed what

Besides the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, which has supplied the tugboat, other FASTWATER partners include the Anglo Belgian Corporation, Belgium, that carried out the engine conversion, Swedish shipbuilder Scandinaos that designed the tug’s modifications, and Heinzmann, Germany, that adapted the injectors. The project’s feasibility study was outsourced to Belgian engineering company Multi. FASTWATER partner Anglo Belgian Corporation will also be responsible for installing the methanol tanks and pipes.

To get to this point

The official launch of the tug’s conversion process is the culmination of many months of hard work following the project’s approval by the European Commission in June 2021. Before receiving the green light, FASTWATER had to overcome the hurdle of the regulations set by the Central Commission for the Navigation on the Rhine that previously forbade the use of methanol as a shipping fuel. The project was therefore submitted to CESNI, the European committee for drawing up standards in the field of inland navigation, to obtain the necessary permission. This was followed by 18 months of negotiations before the Commission approved the project. Besides the harbour tugboat, other FASTWATER demo cases include a pilot boat (successfully demonstrated in December 2021), a coast guard vessel and a river cruise ship, all methanol-powered. FASTWATER (FAST Track to Clean and Carbon-Neutral WATERborne Transport through Gradual Introduction of Methanol Fuel: Developing and Demonstrating an Evolutionary Pathway for Methanol Technology and Take-up) is coordinated by Lund University, Sweden. The project ends in May 2024. For more information, please see: FASTWATER project website


FASTWATER, methanol, fuel, tugboat, conversion, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, shipping

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