Port Liner building electric container barges

The port of Antwerp is a major promoter of this new container barge concept The port of Antwerp is a major promoter of this new container barge concept
Industry Database

Dutch inland waterway barge operator Port Liner is set to roll-out the first fully electric, emission-free barges in Europe. The concept has been developed with €7 million of EU funding and the aim is not only to reduce emissions but also to reduce costs and to improve the efficiency of the transport.

The new electric barges will transport containers destined for the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam and it is planned that they will operate on a regular scheduled service. Each barge will have the capability to carry up to 200 20ft containers. With the barges already under construction it is anticipated that the service will start operations in August of this year. The initial building schedule will see five of these barges start the service and it is planned that a further six barges with a higher carrying capacity will join the fleet later in the year. These larger barges, which can handle up to 280 20 foot containers, will improve the efficiency of the service.

A unique feature of these new barges is the way in which the battery systems are operated. Instead of plugging in the barges whilst they are being loaded and discharged, the batteries will be carried in one of the containers so that recharging will be simply a matter of taking of the discharged container and loading on a fully charged one which will save considerable time and utilise the existing container handling systems.

The port of Antwerp is a major promoter of this new container barge concept. They have added funds of their own to the support from the EU. This EU support is part of a wider initiative to improve the efficiency of port operations. The barges will operate between De Kempen intermodal terminal in South Netherlands and Antwerp, and are expected to remove 23,000 trucks from the roads annually.

The chief executive of Port-Liner, Ton van Meegen commented, “The barges will be the first in the world to sail on carbon-neutral batteries. We could have increased the capacity of the barges to handle more containers, but low bridges in Belgium and the Netherlands prevented this. There are some 7,300 inland vessels across Europe and more than 5,000 of these are owned by entrepreneurs in Belgium and the Netherlands. We can build upwards of 50 barges a year, but at that rate it would still take many years to get the industry operating on green energy.”

Van Meegen also said that the container system to house the batteries could also be used to retrofit barges already in operation which is a big boost for the industry’s green energy credentials. The containers will be charged onshore by carbon-free energy provider Eneco, which sources solar power, wind power and other renewables.

By Dag Pike

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