Tech firm ABB has been awarded a contract to supply power and propulsion solution for a newbuild vessel sailing along the Rhône river in France to operate completely on hydrogen fuel cells.

As per the terms of the contract, ABB will deliver a fuel cell-based solution for a newly constructed push boat for the France-based Sogestran Group subsidiary Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (CFT). The boat is scheduled to be delivered by 2021.

CFT COO Matthieu Blanc said: “CFT has been an inland waterways innovator for more than half a century. Powering river transport in a sustainable way is a new type of challenge, but it has become vital that we cut emissions on Europe’s inland waterways and specifically in the city centres.

“With this project, we aim to highlight that emission-free operation is both feasible and commercially viable.”

ABB industrial automation business president Peter Terwiesch said: “Taking an active role in the FLAGSHIPS initiative, ABB continues to push the boundaries of e-mobility in shipping.

“As one of the world’s leading enablers of sustainable transportation, ABB is committed to writing the future of the marine industry that will see vessels plying the world’s waters more cleanly and efficiently.”

In January 2019, ABB joined the EU-funded FLAGSHIPS project as a member. The project aims to launch commercially operated zero-emission vessels.

ABB also collaborated with Finnish research organisation and project coordinator VTT and Ballard Power Systems Europe to allow a 400kW fuel cell to power vessel operations.

Through this project, the partners want to show that fuel cells are a feasible and deliverable propulsion solution for owners and builders of mid-sized vessels with a capacity of more than 100 passengers or an equivalent freight volume.

Upon installation of the fuel cell power plant for the ship, it will be trialed to determine the required refuelling procedures and to gain insights into optimising the refuelling infrastructure.