Emissions from inland shipping

The share of inland navigation in air pollutants in national totals is currently on the increase, since emissions in this sector decrease less rapidly than e.g. the road traffic emissions. An estimated 7 percent of the health effects of national air pollution of transport can be traced back to inland shipping according to the Dutch 2020 Clean Air Agreement.

The Clean Air Agreement includes a chapter on inland waterway transport. This chapter relates closely to the Green Deal on Maritime and Inland Shipping and Ports which contains policies and measures to address emissions from inland navigation and a transition to zero-emission or low-emission vessels. The Clean Air Agreement also refers to assessment of the public procurement award criteria for ferry services and water taxi licenses.

Inland waterway vessels have a service life of decades. Opportunities to address this include refitting the old/existing fleet. The main barrier to higher uptake of refits and clean air technology installation is the cost, generally to be carried by the operator. Among the current measures is an EU-funded pilot project to support transition to low or zero-emission vessels including with testing of emission results. It was recommended that further use of the available EU funding should be explored to support developments in this sector.

Furthermore, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine currently addresses the issues related to financing of the energy transition in a comprehensive study.

Easy availability and access to cleaner fuels and infrastructure for low-emission fuel or propulsion systems will be important to support and speed up the transition. At the dialogue, opportunities such as roll-out of shore-side electricity and hydrogen infrastructure were discussed. Bottlenecks today include mainly the incapability of vessel owners to finance investments in greening on their own.

Vessels emit harmful substances into the air when docked in ports and not using shore side electricity. This can happen during loading and unloading when vessels use diesel generators for their power supply. The dialogue discussions emphasised the importance of addressing the entire logistics chain around inland navigation, including the truck connections, port facilities and more efficient logistics at loading/unloading e.g. to minimise idle running.

To address the economic/financial barriers experienced by the sector, creative solutions to maximise incentives while not diluting the polluter pays principle will be needed. The need for guarantees and possibility to offer SMEs a shared investment risk (higher share of offered co-financing) was discussed, including via EU funding.

Good lessons learned include making use of the existing river system cooperation platforms, such as especially the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, to ensure cross-border emission reduction benefits.

Bas Kelderman

(Province Zuid-Holland)

Important projects

As one of the most densely populated and one of the most industrialised regions in Europe, and with the presence of the Port of Rotterdam, sustainable inland waterway transport is important for the province Zuid-Holland. This combination is an important reason for the province Zuid-Holland to sign the Dutch Clean Air Agreement and participate in its pilot on clean inland shipping. It is also the reason for the province Zuid-Holland to initiate the projects CLINSH (Clean Inland Shipping) and RH2INE. CLINSH is focussed on retrofit solutions (e.g. after-treatment) and continuous monitoring to show the effect of these solutions on the air quality. RH2INE is focussed on the use of hydrogen for the propulsion of inland vessels. Both projects show the need for measures to stimulate the greening of inland waterway transport, without negatively affecting its position, interregional cooperation along transport corridors and financing mechanisms for the whole value chain.     

Emission label system for inland waterway vessels

The Netherlands has committed itself to achieving a number of important goals with regard to climate and air quality. These goals have been laid down nationally in the Climate Agreement, the Green Deal for Shipping, Inland Shipping and Ports, the Clean Air Agreement and in an international context in the European Green Deal, the Mannheim Declaration and the resolution of the European Parliament. 

The label system which is being developed is primarily aimed at stimulating the greening of the ship and is aimed at the ship owner. After all, the owner of the ship decides whether or not to invest in cleaner propulsion and / or use of alternative fuels. Key words are to offer recognition and recognition for ship owners who have already taken steps or want to take steps to achieve emission reductions. 

The intended management makes the business case for clean technologies and fuels more attractive to inland shipping entrepreneurs. The label system offers governments and other stakeholders insight into the transition to emission-free transport. 

Khalid Tachi

(managing director EICB)