Port of Antwerp unveils Methatug

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The Port of Antwerp-Bruges launches Methatug, hailed as the world’s first methanol-fuelled tug boat.

The Methatug, described as the world’s first methanol-fuelled tug boat, made its debut at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges on Tuesday, May 14.

The project was launched in 2021 as part of the European Union-funded Fastwater initiative, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable marine fuel.

Specifically, the port has commissioned the conversion of an existing tug to dual-fuel methanol propulsion.

The 30-metre-long tug boat has a traction force of 50 tons and can store 12,000 litres of methanol, enough for two weeks of tug work. The project is bankrolled by the European research programme Horizon 2020.

“Together with our partners, we are pioneering innovative technologies for the transition to alternative and renewable energy sources. The Methatug is a new and essential step in our efforts to make our fleet greener and become climate-neutral by 2050. Thanks to projects such as this, we are paving the way and hope to be an example and a source of inspiration for other ports,” Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp-Bruges, said.

“The fact we are able to announce another world premier today (May 14) in the field of clean energy is fantastic news for our port and for the shipping industry in general. Just like with the Hydrotug, the world’s first hydrogen-powered tug boat, this project confirms our pioneering role in the field of energy transition. The ecosystem of our port platform forms an ideal, large-scale testing ground for this,” Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the Board of Directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges, said.

Methatug specifications

  • 11-metre width, 29.5-metre length
  • Weight of 584 tonnes
  • 50-tonne bollard pull
  • Storage of 12,000 litres of methanol
  • two ABC 8DAC dual-fuel medium-speed engines

Besides the Port of Antwerp, which is supplying the tug boat, partners involved in this project include Belgian engineering company Multi, which carried out the feasibility study for the project, Swedish shipbuilder Scandinaos, which designed the vessel’s modifications, ABC (Anglo Belgian Corporation), which was responsible for converting the engine and for installing the methanol tanks and pipes, while the German company Heinzmann adapted the injectors. In addition, Ghent University has been in charge of the emission monitoring programme and the Canadian methanol supplier Methanex contributed to the trials.

As informed, De Witt Bunkering will supply the Methatug with methanol via truck-to-ship bunkering at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges Nautical Operational Cluster (NOC).

The project is part of a greening programme for the port’s fleet and an important step in the transition to a climate-neutral port by 2050.

The port has already added the Hydrotug 1, the first tug boat to run on hydrogen, and energy-efficient RSD tug boats to its fleet. Another electrically powered tug boat is set to follow later this year, as the first in Europe.

As the fifth largest bunker port in the world, Port of Antwerp-Bruges also aims to become a full-fledged multi-fuel port, in which seagoing and inland vessels will be able to bunker alternative, low-carbon fuels, such as methanol, hydrogen or electricity. In early April, the port hosted the first methanol bunkering with the deepsea vessel Ane Maersk.

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