Ballard Power Systems has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ABB to jointly develop megawatt-scale containerised proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power systems for the marine industry.

The multi-year partnership will initially focus on the cruise ship sector. It will also cover joint market development activities, systems design and development work, as well as system testing and validation activities.

The planned systems are expected to be used in a number of applications, including providing power for hotel operations when cruise ships are docked at port, in addition to offering primary propulsion power when ships are at sea.

Ballard Power Systems chief commercial officer Rob Campbell said: “The rapidly evolving marine market represents an exciting growth opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell technology.

“The rapidly evolving marine market represents an exciting growth opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell technology.”

“Ballard’s prior development and deployment of megawatt-scale containerised PEM fuel cell systems for land-based use gives us the critical experience and knowledge to collaborate effectively on the development of clean energy solutions for key marine market applications.”

The new propulsion systems are also expected to help vessel owners and operators to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) new strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

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Adopted earlier this year, the strategy aims to reduce 50% GHG emissions from shipping by 2050, compared to 2008 levels, and completely eliminate GHGs within this century.

In addition, offsetting GHG emissions using hydrogen fuel cells is expected to specifically help the port cities, where significant multi-mode transportation opportunities exist to share centralised hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.