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ACUA Ocean to develop world’s first fully hydrogen powered H-USV

ACUA Ocean, a British maritime cleantech startup, is developing the world’s first long endurance uncrewed surface vessel powered by liquid hydrogen (H-USV). Not only will our remotely operated drone vessel release no carbon emissions, but it will also be the first purpose-built USV to operate using only hydrogen fuel.

The project, part of the UK Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, is being partly funded by grants from the Department for Transport, and is being delivered by Innovate UK. The Department for Transport announced the Clean Maritime Demonstrator Competition in March 2021 as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of green technologies. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK, all working on the research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions to accelerate decarbonisation in the maritime sector.

Once operational, the prototype vessel (named “Ocean Protector”) will boast an endurance of up to 70 days at sea, with an ability to achieve sprint speeds of 20 knots.

Unlike existing uncrewed vessels, the Ocean Protector H-USV is being designed with endurance and reliability in mind. Scheduled to launch in May 2022, the vessel will focus primarily on marine monitoring and protection. The H-USV aims to serve as both a security presence and as a scalable data platform, whilst delivering major project cost savings. Those oftentimes hazardous jobs involving long periods at sea can thus be repurposed and re-skilled into high tech operator roles.

Commenting on the launch of the CMDC, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: 

As a proud island nation built on our maritime prowess, it is only right that we lead by example when it comes to decarbonising the sector and building back greener.  The projects announced today showcase the best of British innovation, revolutionising existing technology and infrastructure to slash emissions, create jobs and get us another step closer to our decarbonisation targets.

Aimed at the rapidly growing offshore monitoring and protection market, the Ocean Protector will initially focus on security, safety and environmental data services for the offshore infrastructure sector. Future essential uses can include anything from border control to marine conservation monitoring.

The Ocean Protector is being built by PDL shipbuilders in Porchester, with shipfitting and electrical outfitting contracts being awarded to Lowestoft-based firms SMS and Trident Marine Electrical, while the hydrogen fuel cell is being developed by Proton Motors, headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Ocean Protector will be officially named by us here at ACUA Ocean on the 31st December 2021, to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Tyne pilot cutter, the Protector, during World War I. The Protector was lost when it struck a German sea mine off the entrance to the River Tyne near Newcastle on New Years eve 1916, with the loss of all nineteen crew members, including William Hopper Tinmouth (41), the great great grandfather of the founders of ACUA Ocean. For this reason, the Ocean Protector will carry a plaque engraved with the names of William Tinmouth and all of his crewmates.

ACUA Ocean CEO Neil Tinmouth said:

ACUA Ocean was founded on the principle of tackling climate change through groundbreaking innovation and a fearless focus on building a cleaner, more ethical and more sustainable maritime technology company. We are following in a long line of innovative British maritime companies; committed to investing in small UK based businesses but with a global outlook.

In naming the vessel the “Ocean Protector” we are reaffirming our commitment to the vital role that ocean biodiversity plays in the battle against climate change, and at the same paying tribute to the brave merchant men and women who have and continue to serve at sea.


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