A European consortium has announced the development of an emission-free barge concept aimed at making inland waterway shipping more sustainable.
Zero Emission Services (ZES) comprises Finnish marine technology group Wärtsilä, ING Bank, energy and technical service provider Engie, and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.
The concept is based on the use of replaceable battery containers, known as ZESPacks, which are charged using energy from renewable sources, to enable all-electric propulsion.
A network of open access charging points will be set up for exchanging depleted battery containers for ready-charged replacements to help keep waiting time to a minimum.
The ZESPacks are designed for multiple applications, enabling them to be utilised for temporary onshore use, such as stabilising the local electricity grid or meeting short-term demand for electrical power.
Batteries will initially be employed though the future-proof container system can also accommodate hydrogen should the technology become a viable alternative.
Furthermore, a ‘pay-per-use’ financing model has been developed to ensure barge operators’ operating costs remain competitive.
As such, ZES will charge only for the cost of consumed renewable energy plus a rental fee for the battery container, however vessels must be equipped with an electric propulsion line.
The concept will first be deployed in the Netherlands, where inland navigation reportedly accounts for 5% of all transport-related CO2 emissions.
Supported by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the project will initially be employed along the Zoeterwoude – Alpherium – Moerdijk corridor.
Dutch brewery Heineken has entered into an agreement with ZES to utilise the service for transporting beer from its factory in Zoeterwoude to Moerdijk, thus becoming the first end-customer for the enterprise.
Following this, the project will be expanded to include the Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Antwerp corridor, making a connection to Nijmegen.
The emphasis during the initial stage will be on converted and newly-built container carriers.
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