PortLiner Electric Barges
Design Energy Shipping

Electric shipping

Across the world, we are seeing an increasing number of plans by countries to phase out in the coming years use of diesel in transport onshore. Now people are asking, with shipping, if electricity could replace diesel, especially with the prospect of the introduction of tougher emission standards over the next decade by the International Maritime Organisation and the EU.

The concept of using electricity as a source of propulsion is not new. In fact, the German inventor Moritz von Jacobi developed the first electric boat in 1839 in St Petersburg, Russia. It was a 24-foot (7.3 metre) boat which carried 14 passengers at 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h). It was showed to Emperor Nicholas I of Russia on the Neva River.

Here is a quick look at some recent all-electric vessels in operation today.

Northwest Europe

Now today, in Europe we are seeing a Dutch Company called Port-Liner in the midst of building a series of all-electric barges. This year, we will see the launch of an initial six such barges – 52 metres long and 6.7m wide and able to carry 280 containers come into operation able to serve 17 inland terminals in the region.

The 100 million-euro project supported by a €7m subsidy from the European Union is expected to have a significant impact on local transport between the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam. The first 6 barges are expected to remove 23,000 trucks from the roads annually in the Netherlands and replace them with zero-emission transport.

A 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 containers will be charged onshore by carbon-free energy provider Eneco, which sources solar power, wind power and other renewables.

Ton van Meegen, CEO of Port Liner says that it could allow them to retrofit existing barges, “This allows us to retrofit barges already in operation, which is a big boost for the industry’s green energy credentials .The containers are charged onshore by carbon-free energy provider Eneco, which sources solar power, windmills and renewables.” The first vessels will complete their maiden voyage later this year.

Denmark Sweden

Last year, Scanlines, which operates two car ferries between Helsingborg in Sweden and Helsingör in Denmark, had them  converted from diesel to all-electric vessels by ABB. As a result, the sailing schedule has remained unchanged, welcome passengers on board these popular ferries every 15 minutes. Each vessel is 238 metre long (780 ft.) and weight 8,414 tonnes. They carry 7.4 million passengers and 1.9 million vehicles annually. It takes more than a pair of AA batteries to operate 8414 tonnes of ferry across the Sound that separates the two cities. Each vessel has installed 640 batteries of 6.5 kWh, plus transformers, converters and cooling of the batteries. Cables run from the deckhouses to connecting points at each end of the ship so that the batteries can be quick-charged – to provide the power of 70 electric cars. As the result of the conversion of the ferries, they are now biggest all electric vessels in Europe.

Lucy Gilliam — an expert on aviation and shipping at Brussels-based nongovernmental organisation Transport and Environment suggested, “that the ferries on the popular route between Dover and Calais would be and another likely prospect for switching car ferries from diesel to electric, since the batteries needed only take up 1% of the ship.”


Ship owner Norled operates on the Ampere ferry link across Sognefjord between Lavik and Oppedal, Norway. The fully electric ferry travels six kilometers across the fjord 34 times a day, with each trip taking around 20 minutes.

In March 2018, Norway Fjord1, a major Norwegian transport conglomerate which operates 75 ships, placed an important order of up to 50 such all-electric vessels with the Havyard Group to build a fleet of battery-electric ferries. The news comes after the operators of the first all-electric ferry in Norway, the ‘Ampere’, reported some impressive statistics after operating for over 2 years.

The Ampere was the world’s first electric-powered car ferry and generates zero emissions and minimum sound. They delivered the ferry in October 2014 and commercial operations began in May 2015. It operates on a 5.7km crossing in the Sognefjord between the villages of Lavik and Oppedal. It makes approximately 34 trips a day, each trip taking 20 minutes, excluding the 10min of loading and unloading time for cars and passengers. The ferry is designed as a catamaran with two hulls. It is 80m-long and 21m-wide with seven crew cabins and 140 chairs. It accommodates up to 120 cars and 360 passengers.

Havyard Group constructed the Ampere’s hulls out of aluminium rather than steel, in order to cut down on the overall weight of the ferry. It features LED lighting, solar panels and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) on board for low-energy consumption. It also features electric instant water heaters on board. The vessel’s propulsion system integrates Siemens BluDrive PlusC solutions. It has two on-board 450kW electric motors, one of them driving the thrusters. The motors are powered by lithium-ion batteries with an overall output of 1,000kWh and a weight of 10t.

In China

In November 2017, they launched the world’s first 2000 metric ton all-electric barge in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. This vessel is a 70-metre long (229 feet) and 14-metre wide (45 feet) and is equipped with over 1,000 lithium batteries, with a total capacity of 2,400 kilowatt-hours. By comparison, Tesla’s Model X is equipped with a 100-kWh battery that allows it to drive nearly 570 kilometres (350 miles). The Guangzhou Shipyard International constructed it and it has zero exhaust emissions. The vessel is powered by lithium batteries and has a range of up to 80 km after a two-hour recharge. The barge is designed to carry coal to power stations in the Pearl River region and elsewhere along the Chinese coast.

One thing is clear the news of developments by shipping in both coastal and inland waterways away from diesel to other fuels such as electricity, is a major step change by the shipping industry meeting the goals of the Paris Accord.


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