Dutch electric boats to cut emissions 

Dutch electric boats to cut emissions 

The world’s first fully electric, emission-free and potentially unmanned container barges are due to operate from Antwerp, Amsterdam and Rotterdam by August. 

In the Netherlands, where cargos are often moved by waterways, Port Liner is developing all-electric barges powered by long batteries, charged on shore by the carbon-free provider Eneco.

Port Liner is also hoping to retrofit diesel barges to run on battery power and make zero-emissions barges commercially competitive.

The Dutch company’s electric, autonomous barges (although they will be manned at first) and retrofitting kits use batteries packed inside seven-metre shipping containers, so they can easily be loaded and swapped when docked or charge them directly when moored. The charging stations are intended to use renewable energy, making the process emission-free.

The barges are intended to be competitive because charging is cheaper than filling with diesel, electric boats have fewer parts with less maintenance and self-driving technology cuts staffing costs.

The absence of a large diesel engine leaves more space for cargo as a traditional engine room uses up around 8 per cent of a barge.

“The retrofit will be necessary because we must reduce our pollution,” Port Liner boss Ton van Meegen said. The company began working on a solution after the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which means the owners of Europe’s 7,000 or more diesel cargo barges have to address emissions.

The EU’s statistics agency Eurostat said 74.9 per cent of freight in the EU was transported by road, compared to 18.4 per cent by rail and 6.7 per cent on inland waterways, although the use of rivers and canals has been increasing.

The first new barges are due to start operating in the Netherlands and Belgium this summer, carrying 24 shipping containers. Just five barges can reportedly replace 23,000 lorries. A larger version with a capacity for 270 containers is apparently under development. The larger vessels would have four battery boxes capable of providing 35 hours of autonomous driving, the firm claimed.

“The complete package that we sell for retrofitting can be done by every marine installation yard,” van Meegan was quoted saying.

Low bridges presented one of the major limitations to the new barges, the CEO added.

The barges are being developed in the Netherlands with a €7 million EU subsidy and additional funds from the European ports involved.

Port Liner said it had the capacity to produce about 500 barges a year to reshape the freight industry, while even greater carbon cuts were available in the US market.



Dinant on the River Meuse in Belgium. Picture credit: Flickr 


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