CMB: ‘Hydrogen is fuel of the future’
The Belgian shipping company, CMB, is planning to have a first large container ship operational on hydrogen. “We have to do something about the climate,” the company says.
Shipping is a polluting sector. More than 95% of the 60 000 vessels that transport 12 billion tons of goods overseas use polluting fuel oil. The shipping industry, therefore, is responsible for 2,5% of global CO2 emissions and emits more greenhouse gases than Germany. “Without any measures, these figures would only increase,” says Alexander Saverys, CEO of CMB. “So, we have to do something about it.”
“We’ve come to a turning point,” says Saverys. “Will we still transport that much coal in 20 years? I don’t think so. Demand will decrease, so, we have to think about what type of vessels we will need, and what kind of cargo we will transport.”
First hydrogen ship
Saverys has always been working on new ships and new engines. In 2017, he experimented with Hydroville, a small passenger ship on hydrogen. Today, this vessel is used for commuting traffic to CMB.
In August this year, CMB will launch a first hydrogen ship in Japan. It will be used as a ferry for 80 passengers. The company is proud of this project. “Japan is a hydrogen country, and it hopes to show it during the Olympic Games.”
Last four years, CMB invested 30 to 40 million euros in hydrogen technology. Until now, those investments did not bring in any profits, but Saverys hopes the tide will turn. “Our clients increase the pressure on shipping to do something about their ecological footprint,” he says.
Saverys is aware of the critics on hydrogen technology. “Too expensive, too hard to stock, not ‘green’ enough.” Still, he’s a believer. “Renewable energy sources like sun and wind will never cover all the energy needs, but the only alternative is hydrogen or a product based on the green hydrogen molecule.”
Saverys is confident to find the necessary funds for further investments in green technology. “Projects like Hydroville and our Japanese ferry are eyecatchers and people all over the world want to see them. They’re small projects, but at least we’re doing something.”
Since January 1st, CMB is entitled to call itself “the first climate-neutral shipping company in the world”. The company recently decided to invest 4 up to 10 million euros in a reforestation project in Zambia. This way, CMB wants to invest in the local economy that is unable to organize agriculture in a sustainable way.
CMB was created in 1895. The company, owned by the family Saverys, exploits more than 90 ships and transports cargo, containers, and chemicals. The company employs 3 600 people at sea and 150 ashore.