The rise of the electric vehicle is not to stop at road-worthy cars, it seems. Starting this summer, the cities of Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam are going to be serviced by a small fleet of electric, autonomous container barges.
Manufactured by Dutch company Port Liner, five such barges will enter operation starting this August. Their rise on the water is expected to take some 23,000 emission-full trucks off the country’s roads. According to Ton van Meegen, cited by shipping industry journal Loadstar, these barges will be the world’s first transport ships powered by carbon-neutral batteries.
The Tesla of the Canals, as the manufacturer is calling the barges, is 52 meters long (170 feet) and 6.7 meters wide (22 feet). Thank to the fact that they have no engine, each barge will be able to carry 8 percent more cargo. In all, 425 tons of shipping, loaded in 6 meter-containers (20 foot), can be transported by water by each barge.
Powering the barges are electric motors that will draw their power from batteries as big as the containers in which they will lorry cargo. There are no details yet on the battery capacity or for how long can the barges travel before needing recharging.
The transport vessels will be capable of doing their runs unattended, being designed to operate autonomously (read to be operated remotely from the shore). In the first few months, however, each barge will be manned for safety and assessment reasons.
Having no crew is a good choice to reduce the cost of shipping, said Port Liner, citing a Moore Stephens LLP report that states crew costs $3,299 a day and account for about 44 percent of total operating expenses for a large container ship.
Following the launch of the 5 barges in August, the manufacturer plans to roll out six others, bigger transport ships, running on bigger batteries and capable of transporting 270 containers for 35 hours. Port Liner says their new ships will reduce the levels of CO2 released into the atmosphere by 18,000 tons each year.