Damen, CAT, Pon Power To Collaborate On Methanol-Powered Vessels

Damen Shipyards, Caterpillar and Pon Power, the official importer of CAT engines to the Netherlands and Norway, have announced a memorandum of understanding aimed at jointly developing a series of dual-fuel methanol-diesel-powered tugboats, with the application eventually available wherever CAT engines are sold.

Under the agreement, Caterpillar will deliver its methanol-ready CAT 3500E dual-fuel pilot engines to Damen, via Pon Power, in 2024. The engines will be integrated into all aspects of a vessel’s control, monitoring, ventilation and other systems, with Damen working closely with classification societies. Damen’s goal is for the new line of methanol-powered vessels to be production-ready by 2026.

“We’re delighted to be working with Caterpillar on this groundbreaking project,” said Joost Mathôt, who directs Damen’s workboats division. “It is of mutual benefit to all the parties involved to begin operating the pilot engines as soon as possible so that we can experience what it means to use methanol as a fuel in a maritime environment. We are very happy to be continuing our longstanding partnerships and are very confident that together we will be able to offer our end customers the sustainable solutions they are asking for, in the near future.”

The partnership announcement follows Damen’s recent delivery of its first all-electric tug, formally called RSD-E Tug 2513 and nicknamed “Sparky,” to the Ports of Auckland, New Zealand. Damen’s line of all-electric tugs offer bollard pulls of 40, 60 and 80 tons, while the company expects to offer methanol-fueled tugs with bollard pulls of 60, 80 and 100 tons.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

According to Damen, the electric tugs make sense for harbors and terminals where low-cost shore power is available. With greater energy density than batteries, methanol-powered vessels would be better “suited for longer duration operations while remaining CO2 neutral,” according to the announcement from Damen.

“For Damen, the introduction of methanol-fueled propulsion systems is the logical next step in our drive toward low-emission propulsion right across our product range and an integral part of our drive to become the world’s most sustainable shipbuilder,” Mathôt said.

Part of the development process will be to design solutions related to the bunkering, storage, management and conversion of methanol.

“Our collaboration with Damen Shipyards Group and Pon Power brings together immeasurable expertise that allows us to learn together and innovate to address the great challenge of the energy transition,” said Brad Johnson, vice president and general manager of Caterpillar Marine.

Besides developing a robust powertrain based on a readily available liquid fuel, the methanol project will be a viable option for operators seeking to lower their carbon emissions, and it’s only one part of Caterpillar’s work with alternative fuel options.

“We’re committed to helping our customers achieve their climate-related goals by developing expanded offerings across renewable fuels like biofuels and methanol, as well as solutions that drive efficiency in these and conversion of energy, such as integrated hybrid power trains,” Johnson said. “Our collaboration with Damen Shipyards Group and Pon Power will enable us to better understand the opportunities and challenges of decarbonizing maritime operations via green methanol.”

According to Caterpillar, while the initial focus of the partnership will be on tugs, the methanol-powered engine line will be open to all regions where Damen operates and all types of vessels the company builds, with further development and application following customer demand.