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Industrial Supply

The next generation of canal barges will run on batteries

A Dutch shipyard is planning to build ships with electric drives. The EU-funded e-freighters will later also navigate the country’s canals autonomously.

26 Jan. 2018
Roland Freist

The container ships from Port-Liner are 110 m long, 11.4 m wide and can carry 270 standard containers. They are driven by four batteries, which are housed in 20-foot containers and deliver a total output of 72 MWh. Journeys of up to 35 hours should therefore be possible. In ports the batteries are simply replaced. The charging process takes around four hours. As the ships do not need to have an engine room, they can carry about 8% more cargo than freighters with diesel drives.

By the fall of 2018 the logistics company GVT intends to be using two of the ships to carry cargo between Rotterdam and the Vossenberg West Tilburg industrial zone . Port-Liner is planning to build a total of 15 ships of this type, all of which have already been leased according to the company’s own information. In addition, the firm is working on a smaller model with a length of 52 m, which can be loaded with up to 24 containers and 425 t of bulk goods. It is intended to carry freight between the Netherlands and Belgium.

Initially, the electric ships will still carry a crew. According to Port-Liner, however, they are designed in such a way that in the future they will also be able to navigate their way along the canals autonomously. Conversion to a drive using fuel cells is also an option. The company has invested around EUR 100 million in the development and the project has been supported with EUR 7 million of EU funding.

Rolls-Royce is also working on unmanned ships. In June 2017, the company sailed a remote-controlled prototype through the port of Copenhagen.