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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article15 May 2024European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency2 min read

Port of Antwerp-Bruges launches the world’s first methanol-powered tugboat

The “Methatug” is part of the EU-funded Fastwater project that set out to explore the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable fuel for the shipping industry. 

FASTWATER project - launch of the Methatug
FastWater Coordinator Sebastian Verhulst, Antwerp alderwoman Annick De Ridder and Port of Antwerp CEO Jacques Vandermeiren pictured during the official launch of Methatug, the world's first methanol-powered tugboat

The launch of the Methatug at the Port House Antwerp in Belgium on 14 May 2024 marks a significant step not only for greening the Port's own fleet, but also towards wider EU goals to reach climate-neutrality by 2050. 

Pioneering innovative technologies

The Methatug uses the engine of an existing tugboat that has been converted to “dual fuel” engines to run on a mixture of methanol and conventional fuel. The 30-metre-long vessel can tow 50 tonnes and store 12,000 litres of methanol, enough for two weeks of tugwork. 

Methanol produces fewer polluting emissions than traditional diesel. It can be produced from renewable sources and can also be used for both brand-new ships and retrofits because it is liquid under ambient conditions. As this so-called “blue” and “green” cleaner methanol becomes more widely available, it will have an even greater environmental impact.

Speaking at the launch, Prof. Sebastian Verhelst, Project Coordinator of FASTWATER, said: 

Methanol has everything to become a fuel of the future and play a pioneering role in the greening of the shipping industry. Thanks to the expertise and efforts of the different partners from the consortium, we are now able to take important steps with Methatug to demonstrate its feasibility.”

Paving the way for the clean energy transition

The Methatug is part of the European FASTWATER project, financed under the EU research programme, Horizon 2020, managed by CINEA. The project is coordinated by Lund University in Sweden. In addition to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Ghent University and Belgian engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation worked on the project, along with other partners from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Sweden and the UK.

Congratulating the partners, Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp-Bruges said: 

“Thanks to projects such as this, we are paving the way and hope to be a source of inspiration for other ports.”

Replicating success

The launch coincided with the final event of the FASTWATER project where partners shared results and looked towards opportunities for building on the successes over the longer-term. As part of the project, conversions to methanol propulsion of a pilot boat in Sweden, a river cruise ship in Germany and a coastguard vessel in Greece have also been developed. 

Launch of Methatug

Summing up, Anna Karamigkou, Project Officer in CINEA (pictured), said: 

“While today marks a significant achievement, the journey does not end here. The commercialisation phase is crucial, and other EU programmes such as the Innovation Fund offer opportunities to scale up and replicate success in other sectors and regions.”


© Port of Antwerp-Bruges