The cleaning of inland shipping

inland shipping CLINSH assessing inland shipping emissions

COMMENT: The first London conference dedicated to accelerating the uptake of disruptive and lower emissions’ propulsion technologies for inland shipping has been held at The Crystal by the Port of London Authority, writes Charles Haine.

Speakers from Finland, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands stood out because they could share examples of electric/hybrid engines and battery energy storage in action.

Needless to say, they’ve been incentivised financially. Little will change without funding and investment, or new legal requirements.

London is pinning its hopes on bagging some of the Mayor’s Clean Air Fund, while the Department for Transport has mobilised a package of support for clean maritime innovation worth £1 million, in smaller grants, to be delivered through MarRI-UK. It’s a start.

The CLeaning INland SHipping (CLINSH) initiative is a Dutch-Belgian-German-English consortium striving to improve air quality in urban areas by accelerating emissions’ reductions in the transport of freight in inland waterways.

This extensive pilot study has selected 30 vessels for detailed measurement (nitrogen, oxides and particulates) and performance-testing of alternative fuels and operational techniques.

Unlike the fantastical claims you see in car advertisements, the emissions monitoring here is ‘live’ and on board covering all kinds of working scenarios and weather conditions.

The resulting database will provide an evidence base and tool for operators, governments, engineers and investors. Skippers need to be interested too. Bagging €12 million from EU Horizon, the aim of the Norway-led TrAM (Transport Advanced and Modular) Project is to develop a zero-emission speedy urban water shuttle for passengers. Using new
manufacturing methods, production costs should be cut by 25% and engineering by 70%.

Hans Thornell of Green City Ferries, Stockholm, showcased an all-electric ferry floating on a cushion of air to reduce friction. A stalwart of electrification, he previously invested in the Movitz, the first in the world with supercharging. This inner-city ferry used 50% less energy and has almost 100% emissions (charging is from renewable energy sources!).

For those that say, “this simply can’t be replicated where we are”, the Movitz was converted from a diesel operation. The ferry can charge in 10 minutes to run for an hour at nine knots.

The technology exists. It is people, behaviours and attitudes, the excuses of the supply chain and factors of profit/money holding back a faster transition.

With the cost of a bridge across the Thames to Canary Wharf escalating to £600 million, MBNA Thames Clippers has set out plans for the UK’s first all-electric self-docking (and charging) ferry at Rotherhithe.

This is very welcome, not least on the grounds of speed (2 minutes turnaround), less pollution and less road traffic.

HySeas III is the final stage of a programme mentioned in the UK’s Clean Maritime Plan. The consortium aims to launch the world’s first sea-going vehicle and passenger ferry fuelled by hydrogen produced from local renewable energy sources in and around Orkney.

Luckily, the Isles have an excess of energy from offshore wind so are more than entitled to use the ‘zero emissions’ and ‘greening’ tags.

From the Q&A sessions in the conference, the penny has not dropped with some that we are now in an officially-declared “Climate Emergency”. The UK Government has announced it, your local authority has no doubt also signed-up and the tide may be turning towards more truth-telling in the media.

There simply is no time for delay. Producing marine fuel from local renewable energy sources would be transformative for coastal communities, especially where
remote. This would retain value locally and increase energy security while promoting cleantech.

The cargo carrying sector needs to be watching and taking copious notes.


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