Hydrogen-powered Uncrewed Surface Vessel to be developed for Thames operations

SEA-KIT International has won funding from the Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure (ZEVI) competition to design and manufacture a hydrogen-fuelled Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), in partnership with Marine2o, which will develop land-based infrastructure to produce green hydrogen, via renewable energy and the electrolysis of water, as part of the project.

Dubbed ZEPHR (Zero Emissions Ports Hydrogen Refilling Survey Vessel), the project’s USV platform will have a multibeam echosounder as its primary payload, with the capability to mount additional sensors such as LiDAR, cameras and environmental monitoring and sampling equipment.

The vessel will also be able to launch and recover aerial drones for surveying, surveillance, and search and rescue. ZEPHR will use two hydrogen fuel cell systems for redundancy.

The Port of London Authority (PLA), a consortium partner, will host the hydrogen refilling station on the River Thames in London and subsequently operate the ZEPHR USV.

“Our support of this exciting project underlines our commitment to creating a Net Zero future on the tidal Thames. Embracing innovation and new fuel technologies utilised on ZEPHR will enable us to be more sustainable and efficient in the production of the essential hydrographic data and products that we provide to all mariners on the Thames,” said John Dillon-Leetch, the PLA’s port hydrographer.

“The 5-year project will also support environmental monitoring, academic and industry research programmes as well as feeding into the Maritime Hydrogen Highway programme – all key elements of the Thames Vision 2050, supporting the PLA, our partners and stakeholders to deliver on their sustainability goals.”

The vessel’s design will be reviewed with Lloyd’s Register and the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency to satisfy regulatory and compliance requirements and to obtain approvals for continuous operations. ZEPHR will be built at SEA-KIT’s production facility in the UK.

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Rob O'Dwyer

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