Ship building and ship transport are highly regulated. The national, European and international rules governing safety are so tight they tend to discourage any kind of technical innovation in the shipping sector. However, low flashpoint fuels, such as hydrogen or other primary energy carriers used in fuel cell technology, first have to be approved by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) before they can be used on seagoing ships. Likewise, the central European committee for inland navigation, CESNI, has to give the go-ahead for their use on inland vessels. Consequently, it is not just the technological demands on ships and their energy supply that have to be factored into the equation, but onshore bunkering, too. In all of this, the pressing issues of climate change mitigation and environmental protection remain at the forefront.


Funded by the German government, the e4ships project is a cooperative venture that brings together leading German shipyards, shipping companies, fuel cell manufacturers and classification societies under the National Innovation Programme Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP), and here specifically the field of 'Stationary Applications'.

Based on the German government's 2016-2026 High-Tech Strategy for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology – from market preparation to competitive products – the cross-sectoral National Innovation Programme (NIP) makes for continuity in research and development while generating the startup support required for market activation.

The cornerstones of this 2016-2026 government strategy were compiled jointly by Germany's Federal Ministries of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), Education and Research (BMBF) and Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Through to mid-2019, Germany's Transport Ministry (BMVI) initially earmarked EUR 250 million in support of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. BMVI issued guidelines on the promotion of 'research, development and innovation measures' in 29 September 2016.

Taking a first step towards market launch, Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) also issued another guideline one year later on 17 February 2017 concerning 'market activation measures under the National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP) Phase 2 (priority area sustainable Mobility)’. This guideline supports the market activation of products that have reached technical maturity but are not yet fully competitive.