Emission-free container barges will remove an estimated 23,000 truckloads from Europe’s roads

The Loadstar, a shipping industry trade journal, has reported that Belgium and the Netherlands are introducing the world’s first fully electric, emission-free container barges this month (below, centre) – operating from the ports of Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam.

Norway which is working towards emission-free (and lower-cost) tourist shipping in the fjords with its first all-electric ferry, the ‘Ampere’, by 2025, will be interested in these barges because they intend emission-free water transport to be extended – eventually – outside the fjords. Read more here.

The vessels, designed to fit beneath bridges as they transport their goods around the inland waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands, are expected to vastly reduce the use of diesel-powered trucks for moving freight.

As the five barges, fitted with a power box giving them 15 hours of power, have no need for a traditional engine room, they have up to 8% extra space, according to their Dutch manufacturer, Port Liner (Van Meegen Group). Their electric motors will be driven by 20-foot batteries, charged on shore by carbon-free energy provider Eneco, which sources solar power, windmills and renewables.

About 23,000 trucks, mainly running on diesel, are expected to be removed from the roads as a result. Their use alone could lead to a reduction of about 18,000 tonnes per year of CO2, it is claimed.

The barges are being developed in the Netherlands with €7m in subsidies from the EU and additional funds from the ports involved.

Port Liner believes it could produce about 500 barges a year to revolutionise the freight industry, although the electric motors and batteries could also be retrofitted into older boats.

At a later date, six larger 110m-long barges, carrying 270 containers, will run on four battery boxes capable of providing 35 hours of autonomous driving.

Portliner’s chief executive, Ton van Meegen, told the Loadstar that the barges would be the first in the world to sail on carbon-neutral batteries and that only the low bridges in the low countries prevented them from being loaded with more goods.




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