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Sweden Gets World's First Methanol-Fueled Pilot Boat

pilot boat
Image courtesy Swedish Maritime Administration

Published Dec 14, 2021 11:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, the Swedish Maritime Administration relaunched an older vessel with a new status: the agency is now the owner of the world's first methanol-fueled pilot boat. 

The administration provides pilotage for about 33,000 vessel transits a year, and it has a fleet of 70 pilot boats. The newly-converted Pilot Boat 120 SE will be part of the agency's regular pilotage operations, and it will be used to evaluate the technology's potential.

The vessel was repowered with an adapted Scania V8 diesel engine, which develops up to 550 horsepower and maintains diesel-like performance. Its emissions profile is favorable, with no PM, no SOx, minimal NOx and - using green methanol - zero net CO2, according to engine developer ScandiNAOS. 

"The pilot boat will be the first of its kind in the world," said Fredrik Backman, shipping director at the Swedish Maritime Administration. "Our redesigned pilot boat is an important piece of the puzzle in our larger and broader transition work towards a completely fossil-free boat and ship fleet."

The project was developed by the EU-supported Fastwater research consortium, which is developing a series of methanol-fueled vessels to answer questions about how it might be used in practice. The consortium seeks to address a variety of challenges around the use of methanol as a marine fuel, including the availability of engines and engine conversion systems; the development of a green methanol supply chain; and the creation of appropriate rules and regulations. Its other projects include methanol fuel conversions for a tug, a coast guard cutter and river cruise ship. 

Thanks to its relative ease of use and familiarity, green methanol is one of the two primary alternative fuels under consideration for deep-sea shipping, along with green ammonia. Notable methanol proponents include Maersk Line, which has ordered a series of eight methanol-fueled container ships for delivery in 2024.