UK to Start Operating Revolutionary Hydrogen-Powered Autonomous Vessels

Unitrove's refueling technology will accompany the ACUA Ocean H-USV 7 photos
Photo: Unitrove
Hydrogen-Powered Autonomous Surface VesselHydrogen-Powered Autonomous Surface VesselHydrogen-Powered Autonomous Surface VesselUnitrove and ACUA Ocean won the CMDC3 in UKHydrogen-Powered Autonomous Surface VesselHydrogen-Powered Autonomous Surface Vessel
UK could become the first to start operating zero-emission ships that are also autonomous, in the world’s first green shipping corridor. The government is funding a complex project that combines unmanned sailing capabilities with liquid hydrogen propulsion and infrastructure.
The maritime sector brings more money to the UK than aviation and rail together. So, it makes sense for the government to also pour more money into it, in support of innovative, green technologies. The Department for Transport now includes a new division known as UK SHORE, that’s supposed to be 100% about decarbonizing maritime transportation and shipping.

At the beginning of 2022, UK SHORE got £206 million (nearly $250 million) which is the largest government investment ever made in this country in commercial maritime transportation. By the end of that same year, the Round 3 of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC3) was launched. The CMDC is UK SHORE’s main multi-year program.

Through the CMDC3, 19 projects will be awarded a total of £60 million ($72 million). One of the latest to be part of this prestigious selection is a consortium named HI-FIVED (Hydrogen Innovation – Future Infrastructure & Vessel Evaluation and Demonstration).

The HI-FIVED project could truly change shipping as we know it. The idea of ships powered only by hydrogen, carrying cargo with no crew onboard, is one of the most futuristic ones out there. Yet, the members of this consortium believe that it can be done right now.

What they envision is a pioneering green shipping corridor stretching between Aberdeen and the Orkney and Shetland Islands. ACUA Ocean, the consortium leader, is the one who will be building the autonomous vessels. Unitrove, which claims to have developed the first liquid hydrogen bunkering facility in the world, will work with the Port of Aberdeen to set up the refueling infrastructure.

The University of Southampton, plus several other industry players, such as Trident Marine Electrical, and NASH Maritime, will also give a helping hand.

ACUA Ocean has an impressive technological breakthrough under its belt. At the beginning of 2022, it launched what claimed to be the world’s first hydrogen-powered drone surface vessel (H-USV), which won the CMDC2 competition.

This autonomous vessel would be able to handle between 40 and 60 days at sea, powered only by liquid hydrogen. During this time, it would cruise at only four knots (4.6 mph/7.5 kph) boasting a maximum payload capacity of almost 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg). What makes it unique is the combination of autonomous capabilities with zero-emission propulsion based on liquid hydrogen.

The same H-USV will be at the forefront of this new project, coupled with the mobile fueling technology developed by Unitrove. It’s set to be delivered no later than the Fall of 2024, when it will start operating in the pre-established green corridor.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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