Barge industry goes for clean air

Friday 24 11 2017
Kick-off CLINSH

Emission measurements on 30 or so barges started in the port of Antwerp last month as part of the EU project Clean Inland Shipping (CLINSH). The project itself was launched on 1 September 2016 as a demonstration to determine the practical effectiveness and costs of emission-reducing technologies, alternative fuels and onshore power supplies. CLINSH brings together 17 partners who along with the European Life Fund are investing in projects that contribute to sustainable barge transport. Antwerp Port Authority is one of these partners. We spoke to Pieter Vandermeeren, who as our Technical manager is actively involved in the project.

How exactly does CLINSH work?

PV: The aim of CLINSH is cleaner barge transport. To achieve this we have to reduce emissions of pollutants, in particular nitrogen oxides and particulates, which will contribute to better air quality in the urban areas of North-West Europe.

The actual emissions will be measured in real time on board barges operated by participants in the project. This will provide valuable information on their environmental performance and the operational costs of implementing the various emission-reducing technologies and alternative fuels. 

The participating barge operators were introduced at a ceremonial meeting held in the port of Antwerp last month. We look on these operators as environmental ambassadors for the barge industry.

Why do any more measurements have to be carried out? Surely the positive effects of emission-reducing technologies and alternative fuels are sufficiently well known?

PV: By carrying out real-time measurements we hope to gain a better understanding of how these techniques work in an operational context. In fact, doing the measurements while the barges are under way is what makes the project so unique. In addition the project includes a socio-economic investigation: how much does it cost, are there any inconveniences, and how do the bargees experience the new technologies on board their vessel? 

Finally, the emission measurements will form the basis of an emissions inventory of the entire European barge fleet, which in turn will serve as input for modelling the local air quality in urban areas of North-West Europe.

What role does Antwerp Port Authority play in all this?

PV: Together with the Province of South Holland, the Energy Valley Foundation and Shell, and with support from the European Life Fund, 2 million euros is being in vested in emission-reducing technologies on board 15 of the barges being monitored. Antwerp Port Authority is contributing 800,000 euros of this.


Marc Van Peel, chairman of Antwerp Port Authority:

"The barge industry is crucial for European ports, to carry their many cargoes to and from hinterland destinations. But just like other modes of transport, barges will have to reduce their pollutant emissions. By participating in this project the port of Antwerp in close collaboration with the barge industry seeks to contribute towards speeding up the necessary reduction in emissions."

Jan Drenth, barge operator:

"We have fitted a smoke filter and catalysers on both engines of our 417 TEU container barge. The total cost of this came to 250,000, for which CLINSH contributed 100,000 euros in support. I made this investment because I think we must do something to protect the environment, and also to compete with trucks that have already switched to clean engines several years ago. But it's a big investment: the smoke filters have to be changed every 8 to 10 years, and for the catalyser to work we have to add 60,000 litres of urea per year. In the short term I don't expect to win new customers immediately, but I do in the long term. After all, everybody is environment-conscious these days."

Aldert Hoekstra, barge operator:

"I've been carrying salt from the Netherlands for Bayer for many years now, on behalf of the Imperial Shipping Group. They want more environment-friendly operation, and so I've fitted my barge with an innovative FWE (fuel-water emulsion) unit that mixes diesel with 25% water, reducing soot particles to a fraction of what they were. This technology represents an investment of 130,000 euros, to which CLINSH is contributing 65,000 euros.

I'm investing in this environment-friendly technology also because I find it sensible to look towards the future. Otherwise you end up with a hulk of floating industrial heritage that nobody is interested in."

Alain Devos, director of the Flanders Barge Know-how Centre:

"All links in the logistics chain must play their part in placing the minimum possible load on the environment. Manufacturers, barge operators, consumers and policy-makers all form part of this chain. In order for the barge operators to take full advantage of their environment-friendly investment, all links in the chain have to collaborate."

For more information and a full list of all participating barges, see