NEW: Rule note addresses safety for ships using fuel cells

NEW: Rule note addresses safety for ships using fuel cells

Mar. 28 2022 - 4 min

Fuel cell technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past five years, with pilot programs taking off and successful integration onboard ships. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now ramping up efforts to develop guidelines for the safe design, construction and operation of fuel cells. As the shipping industry searches for viable low and zero-emission technologies, the need for clear safety guidelines for fuel cells using a variety of alternative fuels is more pressing than ever.

Introducing NR547

To help navigate the safety aspects of fuel cells at all stages of production and use, Bureau Veritas has developed Rule note NR547 ‘Ships using fuel cells.’ Notably, NR547 provides a comprehensive safety approach for multiple fuel cell technologies using alternative fuels. The Rule note must be used in tandem with specific Rule notes for the corresponding fuel including ammonia, methane, liquefied petroleum gas and methanol and ethanol.

Challenges for fuel cell use

While fuel cells have strong potential to help decarbonize the maritime industry, several challenges remain:

  • Adapting mature land-based technologies to maritime needs
  • Developing and scaling-up technologies for fuels other than hydrogen
  • Building up a knowledge bank from feedback gathered during onboard operations, which can only be achieved over time

In addition, fuel cells are not yet suitable as a power conversion propulsion solution for all ship types, particularly larger vessels with extensive power needs. Inland and short-sea vessels require limited installed power that can be handled with fuel cells. However, larger ships predominantly use fuel cells to support their auxiliary power systems, helping reduce emissions at port. Work is ongoing to scale up fuel cell technology, adapting it to the power needs of larger ships.

How Bureau Veritas provides support

Bureau Veritas experts are dedicated to helping equipment manufacturers, shipyards and shipowners safely design, build and operate fuel cells onboard ships. Our “fuelcell” additional service feature requires an extensive range of risk assessments to ensure the safety of personnel, the environment and the vessel’s structural integrity. We combine information from industry-wide joint projects with longstanding expertise in maritime innovation to help stakeholders achieve safe, sustainable operations.