The Port of Amsterdam with the European H2Ships project has selected a shipyard to build a vessel to run on a solid fuel form of hydrogen from 2023 that is said to be safer and simpler to bunker.

After a tender process started this March, Next Generation Shipyards has been selected to do the construction work on the Neo Orbis passenger vessel which will go into operational trials by June 2023.

The vessel, which will be used as a flagship for Amsterdam port’s green efforts, will be the first to sail on electricity generated by hydrogen produced from sodium borohydride (NaBH4).

It is designed to operate in Amsterdam’s canals and the sea area between Amsterdam and Ijmuiden.

The NaBH4 fuelling system which sees the solid form dissolved to react with a catalyst, was developed within H2Ships by partners at TU Delft in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam.

“The major advantage of this hydrogen carrier is its high energy density and that it can be bunkered safely in many places,” said Interreg North West Europe, an organisation sponsoring the H2Ships project.

“The ship will pave the way for scaling-up of this technology for inland and short-sea shipping,” it added.

Extra safety is provided by the stability of storing the hydrogen energy as sodium borohydride which is an inorganic compound often used as a reducing or oxidising agent in chemistry. It has a much higher ignition point than hydrogen gas

H2Ships, which has 13 partners from five countries, has a total budget of €6.3m with €3.5m coming from Interreg North-West Europe between 2019 and 2022 to develop Amsterdam’s hydrogen vessel and equipment in Belgium to power wind farm maintenance vessels for a hydrogen refuelling station.

A long-term aim is to create a closed loop system in which heat produced by the process can warm the interior of the Neo Orbis while water is recycled and residual material is turned into new sodium borohydride fuel. Batteries will provide backup energy.

Lauwersoog-based Next Generation Shipyards designs, builds and repairs work boats up to 30 metres in length.