Dutch inland shipping goes electric
On Saturday, Dutch inland shipping company Nedcargo puts in service its new ‘electric’ container ship Bon Jovi, a major step to the electrification of the sector. Bon Jovi will be baptized with a magnum bottle of beer instead of champagne, because its major client Heineken wants all of its beers to be transported CO2 neutral by 2020.
The ship of type ‘Gouwenaar 2.0’ has electric motors driving the propellers directly, but they get their electricity from a stationary running diesel generator. Emissions are ‘cleaned’ with an after-treatment system.
What to choose?
“We want a fully electric ship by 2020, but we don’t know yet what to choose to replace the diesel generator”, says Diederik Jan Antvelink, CEO and co-founder of Nedcargo. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a hot item today in inland shipping, but to sail CO2 neutral, that’s no option. “Possibly we’ll choose for extra battery packs, but it can be a fuel cell too”, Antvelink says.
Batteries take up valuable container space and make the ship heavy, while hydrogen is only a good solution if it is produced by green sources. Meanwhile Bon Jovi is saving on fuel and emissions, and costs. “The diesel generators deliver far less power than standard diesel engines of 1.000 to 1.200 horsepower in inland ships”, Antvelink says. “We don’t need that kind of power because the ships sails in South-Holland and doesn’t have to cope with strong currents”.
The ship’s hull is designed espacially with a torpedo-like shape at the back to minimize water resistance on inland waters with minor currents. It can transport 52 instead of 42 containers with some 2,5 million beer bottles per transport from Alphen aan den Rijn to the Rotterdam Port.
The Dutch inland shipping sector is the biggest of Europe with some 6.500 ships sailing. Electrifying the whole fleet will be a major challenge. Two thirds are owned by families and ships are often old. They’ll all have to cope with the question which technology will be the best to invest in.
Clean Inland Shipping project
Several national authorities like the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Germany together with knowledge institutes and companies (among which Nedcargo and oil company Shell), have started the ‘Clean Inland Shipping’ (Clinsh) project to test on thirty ships to start with all kinds of alternative propulsion systems to reduce emissions. The EU is contributing 8,5 million to the project.