Power & PropulsionHybridHydrogen-Hybrid Research Vessel Awarded Approval in Principle 

Hydrogen-Hybrid Research Vessel Awarded Approval in Principle 

Naval architecture and marine engineering firm Glosten has been awarded an Approval in Principle (AIP) by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) for the design of UC San Diego’s new hydrogen-hybrid Coastal-Class Research Vessel (CCRV). The CCRV will be operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and feature an innovative propulsion system that utilizes hydrogen fuel cells for zero-emissions operation.

Glosten and the project’s electrical integrator, Siemens Energy (SE), completed the preliminary design for the hydrogen-hybrid CCRV in March 2024. As an uninspected, California Air Resource Board (CARB)-compliant, ABS-classed vessel and an alternative design under SOLAS, the CCRV faced a complex regulatory regime.

“Our challenge was to harmonize the requirements of a modern research vessel with evolving regulations and novel technologies for liquid hydrogen fuel. Ensuring the machinery spaces and hydrogen systems were efficiently and safely arranged without compromising the utility of the vessel was like putting together an intricate puzzle,” said Glosten’s Robin Madsen, the lead marine engineer on the project.

“When it comes to a first-of-its-kind vessel like the CCRV, these are uncharted waters—it was up to our team to tap into our expertise and work with regulators, partners, subcontractors, and equipment providers to determine a sound approach,” said Madsen. “One of Glosten’s greatest strengths as a consultant is our ability to navigate this kind of uncharted regulatory terrain. It’s the difference between paint-by-numbers and a blank canvas—in one case you know what you’ll be getting, in the other you have the potential for something truly unique.”

In 2018, Glosten, Scripps Oceanography, Sandia National Laboratories, and DNV conducted a feasibility study funded by MARAD that became the genesis of the CCRV. The study evaluated the technical, regulatory, and economic feasibility of the Zero-V concept, a vessel powered by fuel cells and liquid hydrogen designed to meet performance and environmental criteria established by Scripps. While the study confirmed that technology had advanced enough to make a hydrogen-powered research vessel possible, regulations around the use of hydrogen fuel are still in development. During the CCRV’s preliminary design, Glosten worked closely with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and ABS to define a regulatory approval framework for the use of liquid hydrogen aboard a research vessel.

“ABS is proud to use our industry-leading insight into hydrogen as a marine fuel to support this project. The CCRV has the potential to make a significant contribution to the wider adoption of hydrogen, a promising alternative fuel for the maritime industry,” said Gareth Burton, ABS senior vice president, global engineering.

Prior to submitting the design for AIP, Glosten successfully completed a week-long risk assessment workshop with the USCG, ABS, Scripps, Sandia, SE, and major equipment providers, Ballard Power Systems and Chart Industries.

AIP shows that the CCRV design meets the technical requirements and safety standards of ABS, but more broadly, it validates the use of hydrogen-fuel-cell propulsion for medium-sized coastal vessels. The CCRV will help Scripps and its researchers study the marine ecosystem along the California coast, running entirely on emissions-free hydrogen fuel cells for 75 percent of its missions.

“Our goal is to produce a fully capable ocean-going research vessel that meets the needs of our scientists and students, and demonstrate that this can be done in a way that absolutely minimizes its impact on our environment,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director of Scripps and head of ship operations and marine technical support. “This will be a world-class oceanographic research vessel that aligns with our institutional values for protecting the planet.”

The hydrogen-hybrid CCRV will also serve as a vital platform for hands-on learning. As a student-centered, research-focused public university, UC San Diego considers seagoing experiences a cornerstone of educational programs. The vessel will be integral to training the next generation of scientists, leaders, and policymakers.

The project team is currently progressing the CCRV to a functional-level design and assisting Scripps with a request for proposal to begin solicitation for construction.

For more information about CCRV, visit their project page.

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