Sustainable fuels and maritime transport

The ‘Energy Observer’, a hydrogen-powered vessel, called at the port of Amsterdam on 10 April. The electrically powered vessel operates without emitting any greenhouse gases or particulate matter (pm) by using carbon-free hydrogen from the seawater. Captain Victorien Erussard and expedition leader Jérôme Delafosse are currently on their six-year odyssey. When I saw the vessel sailing past our Port office, I was very impressed by this initiative, and also realised the great challenge that lies ahead.


The maritime world has long been talking about sustainable fuels. A great challenge for inland and sea shipping: ‘How do I reduce my CO2 and pm emissions?’ The financial margins in the shipping industry remain tight. Sailing on new fuels calls for considerable investment in the vessel and the engine.


Of course, alternatives are being developed. LNG as a marine fuel has taken off in recent years. The LNG case shows the need for a multidisciplinary approach. It's not only about the technology of the ship's engine, but also about the regulations. Can my vessel sail on LNG? Can it bunker LNG in a port within the existing regulations? A chain approach is needed to further develop sustainable fuels with the following links: production, transport, storage/transhipment and bunkering. This calls for close cooperation between market parties and governments.


Tests with new fuels show that it is technically possible, but the challenge remains from a business and practical point of view. How to ensure an adequate supply of this sustainable fuel in several seaports at a competitive price? Electric vessels are possible for short distances. But other sustainable fuels are needed for longer distances and heavier transport, such as H2 and methanol.


We as a port authority don’t transport any cargo or own any vessels except for our own patrol vessels. So how can we contribute to these necessary innovations? Together with other seaports, we’re reducing the port dues for green vessels. We act as a matchmaker to unite various parties in the maritime chain to drive new innovations. As a co-creator, we actively research the market introduction of sustainable fuels. With the H2Ship and Green Maritime Methanol projects we're developing the H2 and methanol fuel chains and the requirements set for a seaport. As a pilot, we're looking into whether our own canal cruise boat, the ‘Havenbeheer’, can sail on H2.


Making shipping more sustainable calls for innovative applications of sustainable fuels. This is a major challenge that we can only meet by working together intensively within the maritime sector. I call on the sector to work together to achieve this.


Jan Egbertsen

Innovation Manager, Port of Amsterdam