MSC gets serious about building world’s first oceangoing hydrogen-powered cruise ship

H2 gas pump symbol in the bubble. 3d illustration.

The cruise division of MSC Group, Fincantieri and energy infrastructure company Snam have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly determine the conditions for the design and construction of what would become the world’s first oceangoing hydrogen-powered cruise ship.

The three parties will initially carry out a study to assess the feasibility of designing and building the vessel, which would allow zero-emissions operations in certain areas, and the development of the related hydrogen bunkering infrastructure.

Green hydrogen can be produced without fossil fuels, using renewable energy to split water in a process called electrolysis, and can therefore be emissions-free on a full lifecycle basis.

It can be used to generate electrical power through a fuel cell, emitting only water vapour and heat.

This type of ‘green’ hydrogen holds great potential to contribute to the decarbonisation of the shipping industry, including cruising, whether in its pure form or as a hydrogen-derived fuel.

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Group’s cruise division, said: “As a company that has long made environmental sustainability its focus, we want to put ourselves at the forefront of the energy revolution for our sector and hydrogen can greatly contribute to this.

“However, today production levels remain low and hydrogen fuel is still far from being available at scale.

“With this project, we’re taking the lead to bring this promising technology to our fleet and the industry, while sending the strongest possible signal to the market about how seriously we take our environmental commitments.

“As we advance with the development of the maritime technology required, we will also see that energy providers take note and ramp up production to unlock this, and that governments and the public sector step in to provide the necessary support for a project that is critical to the decarbonisation of cruising and shipping.”

MSC’s Pierfrancesco Vago

Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono said: “Every opportunity for new solutions and technologies is a source of growth for us. This one allows us to offer our customers the best of innovation to help minimise the environmental impact.”

Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, said hydrogen could be a key enabler in achieving the target of net zero emissions in shipping, accounting for approximately three per cent of global CO2 emissions, as well as in all the “hard to abate” sectors.

“Snam is strongly committed to concrete initiatives for sustainable heavy transport – on road, rail and by sea – promoting the use of renewable gases such hydrogen and bioLNG,” he said.

“This agreement for us is part of a wider strategy to leverage on our experience, competences and technologies in green gases and energy efficiency in order to contribute to the full decarbonisation of the shipping value chain, including ports and logistics, which will be increasingly crucial in our economies.”

As per the terms of the MoU, the three companies will study key factors related to the development of oceangoing hydrogen-powered cruise ships over the next 12 months.

These include arranging ship spaces to accommodate H2 technologies and fuel cells, technical parameters of onboard systems, calculating the potential greenhouse gas emissions savings, and a technical and economic analysis of hydrogen supply and infrastructure.

The initiative is part of MSC’s journey towards achieving net carbon neutral operations by 2050.

In other news, the company has officially taken delivery of its new flagship, MSC Seashore – the largest cruise ship to be built in Italy.

Sister ship MSC Seascape is currently under construction at the Monfalcone shipyard and is due to come into service in winter 2022.


Featured image source: iStock/style-photography

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