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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport electrification (ELT)
Vehicle design and manufacturing (VDM)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Atmospheric emissions from ships are a serious environmental problem, particularly in coastal areas and port cities. Notably, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are expected to exceed those of all land-based sources in the EU by 2020. Sulfate and nitrate particles along with emissions of primary particles (such as soot and dust) result in fine particles i.e. PM10 (particles of 10 micrometres or less), PM2.5 (particles of 10 micrometers or less) which can harm human health. The bulk of emissions on inland waterways are generated by medium to large vessels. The use of fuel cells to power those ships in the range of 300 to 600 kW would be a zero emission solution. However, the available fuel cell technology for submarines is too costly and its use in small vessels not suitable to the targeted power requirements. The task for this project was to provide a technical solution that would be scalable to typical power requirements and which could be fully integrated into surface vessels of different sizes.


The Zero emissions ships–Zemships project aimed to develop and realise the first hydrogen-powered passenger ship (capacity > 100 persons), power-assisted by a 300-600 kW electric motor that gets its electricity from a fuel cell. Its main advantages over conventional ships would be zero local emissions, low noise, high energy efficiency and no risk of water pollution. Other goals were to:

  • Redefine the best available technology (BAT) for maritime transportation;
  • Provide a prototype for the development of other fuel cell powered ships in Europe;
  • Disseminate the project results widely in order to promote the future use of hydrogen powered ships.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Union
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The Zemships project achieved its objectives:

  • After a challenging construction phase, the ship including the fuel cell propulsion system was built as foreseen. On 29 August 2008 the first commercially used fuel cell passenger ship was put into service on the Alster lake in Hamburg;
  • The fuel cell passenger ship, the ‘Alsterwasser’ operated for two seasons within the project life-time with zero emissions generated locally, and with scarcely no noise;
  • The construction and technical specifications for this new type of fuel cell vessel were defined and applied for the first time. Thus the project prepared the ground for the development of other fuel cell ships.
  • The prototype ship will continue to operate beyond the end of the project.
  • An innovative hydrogen filling station was set up and was proved to be efficient and easy to use.

With the regards to the Carbon footprint of the Zemships project: Local emissions are zero – this means that compared with a conventional diesel-electric ship, savings of around 47 000 kg of CO2 emissions per ship/ year can be made locally (based on 3 000 operating hours). Remote emissions: (i.e. during generation of the necessary hydrogen), can vary considerably. The total carbon emissions for hydrogen generation by steam reforming of methane and use of liquid hydrogen for transport and storage, are higher than those of a comparable modern diesel-electric ship. However, the transition to a larger hydrogen power market is still at a very early stage and alternative hydrogen generation processes are being developed. Project partner Linde is in the process of setting up a plant to generate hydrogen from glycerine. This would cut the carbon footprint considerably compared with steam reforming. Future plans include even better alternatives such as H2 generation with surplus wind energy. Both, H2 supply and pioneering H2 consumption projects such as Zemships need to be carried out concurrently in order to arrive at a viable large-scale H2 alternative in 10-20 years.

FCS Alsterwasser has honourably received the silver F-cell award by Baden-Württemberg's State Ministry.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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