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Antwerp-Bruges launches world's first methanol-powered tugboat

Antwerp-Bruges launches world's first methanol-powered tugboat

(Posted on 15/05/24)

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges has presented a world premier: the Methatug. This tugboat, which runs on methanol, is part of a greening programme for the port's fleet and an important step in the transition to a climate-neutral port by 2050. The project is being financed by the European research programme Horizon 2020 and is part of the FASTWATER project, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable fuel for the shipping industry.

Methanol is one of the fuels of the future and produces lower emissions, an important factor in the Port of Antwerp-Bruges' ambition to be climate neutral by 2050. The world's first methanol-powered tugboat, the Methatug, was unveiled today in Antwerp. Methanol can be produced from renewable sources, is a clean fuel and can be used for both brand-new ships and retrofits because it is liquid under ambient conditions. For the Methatug, the engines from an existing tugboat were converted into ‘dual fuel’ engines, which means that they run on a mixture of methanol and traditional fuel. The 30-metre-long tugboat has a traction force of 50 tons and can store 12.000 litres of methanol, enough for two weeks of tug work.

The Methatug is part of the European FASTWATER project, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable fuel for the shipping industry, and was financed by the European research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. In addition to Port of Antwerp-Bruges, various other partners from the FASTWATER consortium are involved in this project: the Swedish ship design agency ScandiNAOS, the Belgian engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation, the German company Heinzmann responsible for the methanol injectors, Ghent University for the emission monitoring programme and the Canadian methanol supplier Methanex during the trials. In the FASTWATER project, the conversions to methanol propulsion of a pilot boat in Sweden, a river cruise ship in Germany and a coastguard vessel in Greece are also elaborated. De Wit Bunkering will supply the Methatug with methanol via truck-to-ship bunkering at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges Nautical Operational Cluster (NOC).

This world premier forms part of a comprehensive greening programme for Port of Antwerp-Bruges' own fleet which strives to systematically integrate the most environmentally friendly technologies available. So far, the Hydrotug 1, the first tugboat to run on hydrogen, and energy-efficient RSD tugboats have already been added to the fleet. Another electrically powered tugboat will follow later this year, as the first in Europe.

As the fifth largest bunker port in the world, Port of Antwerp-Bruges also aims to become a full-fledged multi-fuel port, in which seagoing and inland vessels will be able to bunker, not only conventional fuels, but also alternative, low-carbon fuels, such as methanol, hydrogen or electricity. In early April, the first methanol bunkering with the deepsea vessel Ane Maersk took place in Antwerp, a new milestone in terms of this ambition.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp-Bruges: "Together with our partners, we are pioneering with innovative technologies for the transition to alternative and renewable energy sources. The Methatug is a new and essential step in our efforts to make our own fleet greener and become climate neutral by 2050. Thanks to projects such as this, we are paving the way and hope to be an example and a source of inspiration for other ports.”

Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the Board of Directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges: "The fact we are able to announce another world premier today in the field of clean energy is fantastic news for our port and for the shipping industry in general. Just like with the Hydrotug, the world's first hydrogen-powered tugboat, this project confirms our pioneering role in the field of energy transition. The ecosystem of our port platform forms an ideal, large-scale testing ground for this."

Prof. Sebastian Verhelst, Project Coordinator FASTWATER: “Methanol has everything to become the fuel of the future and play a pioneering role in the greening of the shipping industry. Thanks to the expertise and efforts of the different partners from the consortium, we are now able to take important steps with the Methatug to demonstrate its feasibility.”

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