NYK Leads Project to Develop Hydrogen-Powered Ferry

Typical small passenger ferry in Yokohama's harbor (file image courtesy Ogiyoshisan)

Published Sep 3, 2020 7:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Japanese consortium headed by NYK Line plans to develop and deploy a 100-passenger tour boat powered by electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. It will be Japan's first fuel cell venture with a vessel this large. 

The consortium will begin a feasibility study for the project this month, followed by design work on the boat and its hydrogen fuel supply system in 2021. Construction is expected to start in 2023, and pilot operation of the vessel at the port of Yokohama is scheduled to begin in 2024.

The project will entail the development of new shipboard technology, including the fuel supply system and an energy management system to combine power from the battery with power from the fuel cell.

NYK's partners include Toshiba, which has a long history in hydrogen fuel cell technology, and Eneos, which specializes in hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure. ClassNK will provide class services for the project.

The Japanese government has selected hydrogen as its future transportation fuel of choice, promoting a goal to transform Japan into a "hydrogen society." Its road map calls for 800,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the road by the end of this decade. All of this hinges on cost reduction: outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe has declared an ambition to reduce the production cost of hydrogen by 90 percent by 2050, making it cheaper than natural gas. 

In addition to its transport as a compressed and liquefied gas, hydrogen can also be "stored" via chemical reaction with nitrogen to produce ammonia. While ammonia has its own handling requirements, it is less logistically challenging to move and use than a cryogenic gas, and it may be burned as a fuel in a modified diesel engine. NYK is also involved in an R&D project to examine the possibility of constructing and deploying an ammonia-fueled tug, which would be among the first vessels of its kind. 

Illustration courtesy NYK