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Draft interim guidelines for ships using fuel cells agreed by Sub-Committee: IMO

Draft interim guidelines aimed at providing international standard provisions for ships using fuel cell power installations have been agreed by IMO's Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 7).

The draft interim guidelines cover issues including fire systems and gas/vapour detection. The guidelines are intended to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of electrical and/or thermal energy through the use of fuel cell technology.

The development of these interim guidelines for safety of ships using fuel cells is part of the important work being carried out by the Sub-Committee in the context of shipping's need for new fuels and propulsion systems to meet decarbonisation ambitions set out in the Initial IMO GHG Strategy

Fuel cells can operate using hydrogen

A fuel cell is a source of electrical power in which the chemical energy of a fuel cell fuel is converted directly into electrical and thermal energy by electrochemical oxidation. Fuel cells can operate using hydrogen (which has the potential to be explosive) as the fuel source.

The draft interim guidelines will be forwarded to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval at its 105th session, scheduled to meet in April 2022.

Matters related to newer types of fuel are considered under the agenda item on the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). The IGF Code, which entered into force in 2017, aims to minimize the risk to ships, their crews and the environment, given the nature of the fuels involved. It has initially focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG), but work is now underway to consider other relevant fuel types.

Amendments to guidelines relating to low flashpoint fuels requiring low temperatures

The Sub-Committee agreed various draft amendments to guidelines and Codes in relation to ships using or carrying fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is cooled to very low (cryogenic) temperatures for carriage. The draft amendments relate to the utilization of high manganese austenitic steel, including corrosion testing for ammonia compatibility

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