Eco-consultant steers Belgian barges towards sustainable future

Friday 23 11 2018

Barge is traditionally viewed as a sustainable, environment-friendly mode of transport. But under the pressure of ever-stricter emission standards the Belgian barge fleet too must become even more environment-friendly. To help achieve this, eco-consultant Paul Lambrechts will advise the barge industry over a period of three years. The project is an initiative by Antwerp Port Authority, Kenniscentrum Binnenvaart Vlaanderen (Flanders barge industry knowledge centre) and Vlaamse Waterweg (waterway operator). 

Emission-reducing measures

Paul Lambrechts is convinced that the sustainable character of the Belgian barge industry is a key economic advantage: “With time, more and more companies will insist on their transporters meeting certain emission standards. This also applies to the barge industry. Some barge companies already use emission reduction technologies as an argument to win transport contracts. The sooner the entire barge sector adapts to this new reality, the quicker it will be able to reap the rewards.”

The port world is also ratcheting up the pressure, with some ports already imposing differential port fees. These are aimed in the first place at rewarding barges that meet certain emission standards, while punishing ships with more polluting engines by charging them higher fees.

"As the Port Authority we are assuming our responsibility by investing along with the barge industry”, says Pieter Vandermeeren, Technical Manager Environment at Port of Antwerp. “For example the Port Authority plays an important role in the EU project for Clean Inland Shipping (CLINSH) and is co-investing in emission reduction technologies on board 15 or so barges. Calling upon the services of an eco-consultant also forms part of the Port Authority's strategy for making the barge industry more environment-friendly.".

Paul Lambrechts

Free advice and support

Paul Lambrechts will make barge operators aware of the impact that stricter environmental legislation will have on their operations, with regular workshops and information sessions. He will use practical examples to outline the various options for barge operators to reduce the emissions of their fleet or just a single barge. The possibilities include among others installing an electric motor, a catalyser or an exhaust filter. Another option is dual-fuel barges that run partly on more sustainable fuels such as LNG.

Are such investments too expensive?

"In addition to giving advice I offer practical help with presenting a business case and applying for subsidies or loans. Belgian barge operators are not always aware of the subsidies for which they are eligible. New financial measures also make it much more attractive to include emission reduction measures when repairing, overhauling or purchasing a vessel. I hope to reach as many as possible of the 800 Belgian barge operators, as it is important both in ecological and economic terms for barge transport to continue playing an important role in the supply chain."