Bureau Veritas launches new rules for hydrogen-powered vessels

Classification society Bureau Veritas (BV) has published its first classification Rules for hydrogen-fuelled ships, in a move it claims will support the safe development of hydrogen propulsion in the maritime sector.

The rules outline technical requirements for the safe bunkering, storage, preparation, distribution, and use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation on board.

The rules also cover monitoring and control systems, addressing specific safety challenges relating to the transport and use of hydrogen on ships, such as high flammability, as well as the need to store the fuel in very high-pressure or low-temperature conditions.

According to BV, the rules for hydrogen-fuelled ships aim to mitigate the risk of hydrogen leakage, fire, or explosion, with detailed requirements for machinery and engine design, as well as the vessel’s configuration and the arrangement of fuel tanks and other systems on board. They also include prescriptions for the ventilation of hazardous areas, venting and pressure relief systems, and monitoring and safety systems including vapour and gas detection.

“Hydrogen-prepared” vessels, which are designed to be ready for the installation of a hydrogen fuel system at a later stage, are also included in BV’s rules.

These classification Rules complement BV’s existing rule note on fuel cell power systems on board ships that were launched in 2022 in response to growing interest in the maritime industry for fuel cells and cover all types of fuels, including hydrogen.

BV noted that these new rules have been informed by industry feedback and input from a wide range of stakeholders, combined with the land-based hydrogen experience of other divisions within the Bureau Veritas Group, reflecting the latest state of industry knowledge on the use of hydrogen as ship’s fuel.

The rules will be periodically updated, in line with the evolution of the technology, as well as regulatory decisions from the Flag States and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

BV is currently working on around ten projects involving hydrogen as a fuel, either as the main propulsion source for smaller ships or as an auxiliary power for larger vessels.

Earlier this year, classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) also developed and released its own set of requirements to guide the industry in the use of hydrogen-fuelled vessels.