World’s first hydrogen-powered tugboat to debut at port of Antwerp


Compagnie Maritime Belge is building the first tugboat in the world that will guide container ships to port with a hydrogen-diesel hybrid engine

‘Key to sustainable shipping’

The port of Antwerp has ordered a tugboat partially powered by hydrogen, the first in the world. This unique Hydrotug will be driven by combustion engines that burn hydrogen in combination with diesel.

Tugboats help guide massive containers ships into crowded ports. They usually have diesel engines and are known for burning a great deal of fuel.

The Hydrotug will be built by Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), one of Europe’s oldest shipping companies. The tug’s hybrid engine will comply with the EU’s Stage V, the lowest-rated for emissions on the market.

CMB is a pioneer in the field of hydrogen power for shipping. Last year it won the port’s Sustainability Award with its Hydroville shuttle, a passenger ferry that also uses duel-fuel technology. This vessel is now being used for sustainable commuter transport within the port area.

CMB has also teamed up with Ghent-based engine builder ABC to set up the BeHydro joint venture, with the aim of further developing the technology for medium-speed engines with higher power output. The Hydrotug will be the first hydrogen-diesel vessel with output in the 4000 kW class.

CO2-neutral port

“We are convinced of the potential of hydrogen as the key to sustainable shipping and making energy transition a reality,” says CMB CEO Alexander Saverys. “What we’ll learn from constructing and running the Hydrotug will enable us to further develop the use of hydrogen as a shipping fuel.”

Port of Antwerp CEO Jacques Vandermeiren says that it is the ultimate goal of the port to become CO2-neutral. It is lending support to hydrogen initiatives in the hope that the rest of the shipping industry will follow.

“As an industrial seaport, Antwerp’s role in energy transition should not be underestimated,” he says. “Together with our partners, we are preparing for the future with a constant search for innovative applications and opportunities. With this world first, we aim to further pave the way for alternative fuels such as hydrogen, in order to realise the transition to alternative, renewable sources of energy.”

Construction on the Hydrotug will begin this year, and it is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.

Photo: What the Hydrotug will look like
©Port of Antwerp

Port of Antwerp

The port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest port and one of the world’s most important ports for container traffic.
Going green - The port’s first-ever sustainability report won it the Award for Best Belgian Sustainability Report.
Size - The port takes up more space than the actual city of Antwerp.
Roots - Historians have found evidence for the port’s existence dating back to the 12th century.

barges entering the port daily


companies in the greater port area


tonnes of freight handled in 2012