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North Sea port commissions first methanol tugboat

The “Methatug”, the world’s first methanol-powered tugboat has been put into service in the port of Antwerp-Bruges.

For the “Methatug”, the engines of an existing tugboat were converted into dual-fuel engines. They now run on both methanol and conventional fuel. The 30 m long tug has a bollard pull of 50 tons. According to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, the tank capacity of 12,000 litres of methanol is sufficient for two weeks of tugboat operation.

The project is funded by the European research program Horizon 2020 and is part of the Fastwater project, which aims to demonstrate the suitability of methanol as a sustainable fuel for the shipping industry.

In addition to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, various other partners in the Fastwater consortium are involved in this project: the Swedish ship design agency ScandiNAOS, the Belgian engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation, the German company Heinzmann, which is responsible for the methanol injection nozzles, the University of Ghent for the emissions monitoring program and the Canadian methanol supplier Methanex during the tests. As part of the Fastwater project, a pilot boat in Sweden, a river cruise ship in Germany and a coast guard vessel in Greece will also be converted to methanol propulsion.

Electric drive follows methanol

This world premiere of the “Methatug” is part of a comprehensive programme to green the fleet of the port of Antwerp-Bruges. So far, the “Hydrotug 1“, the first hydrogen-powered tugboat, and energy-efficient RSD tugboats have already been added to the fleet. Another electrically-powered tug, the first in Europe, is set to follow this year.

“As the fifth largest bunkering port in the world, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges also wants to become a fully-fledged multi-fuel port where seagoing and inland vessels can bunker not only conventional fuels, but also alternative, low-carbon fuels such as methanol, hydrogen or electricity,” explains Port of Antwerp-Bruges. At the beginning of April, the first methanol bunkering took place in Antwerp with the large container ship “Ane Maersk”, a new milestone towards this goal.

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