CMB.Tech, the cleantech division of Compagnie Maritime Belge, is building four cargo vessels designed to allow for the use of hydrogen propulsion technology in collaboration with fellow Belgian shipping company Boeckmans. 

The 5,000dwt “future-proof” vessels will be built at the Dung Quat shipyard in Vietnam and have been jointly designed with shipbuilding company Handelskade with the first delivery expected in H2 2025. 

Alexander Saverys, CEO of CMB.Tech, said: “Our commitment to reducing emissions through the design of these cargo ships is a huge step forward. 

“By embracing innovative propulsion systems such as hydrogen, we are not just building ships; we are working toward a greener future for global trade routes.” 

While the general cargo vessels will still include diesel-electric engines under their forward accommodation, CMB.Tech and Boeckmans said that this configuration would allow alternative propulsion systems and fuels, such as hydrogen, to be installed in the stern. 

The two companies said that the design of the ships showed their commitment to sustainable solutions for shipping that continue to be efficient across global trade routes. 

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Pierre Durot, director of Boeckmans, said: “The ship’s primary design philosophy is to achieve lower emissions through hull shaping, innovative design and the application of the latest technologies. We succeeded in reducing emissions by 40% compared to traditional general cargo vessels in diesel mode. 

“This can be reduced even further by implementing new sustainable propulsion systems and create storage space for fuels such as hydrogen. The ship’s diesel-electric configuration simplifies the integration of new systems into the power grid.” 

Alongside its focus on hydrogen, CMB.Tech has also been exploring other alternative sustainable fuels, signing an agreement at the beginning of 2023 with Swiss engine manufacturer WinGD to develop ammonia-fuelled two-stroke engines.