The participants of Ports and the City were enthusiastic about the prospect of providing inland vessels with clean engines and clean fuels. ‘Inland shipping has a distinct advantage if you compare its CO2 emissions to those of trucks or trains,’ Van Nieuwenhuizen says. ‘In order to maintain this advantage, inland vessels are going to have to make the transition to cleaner technology.’
The ultimate aim in the Declaration of Nijmegen is to have a climate-neutral inland shipping sector by 2050. ‘In other words, the sector has no time to lose,’ the minister emphasises. A truck can already be replaced after six or seven years by a cleaner one, equipped with the latest technologies, whereas a ship lasts forty years on average.
The Declaration of Nijmegen is an initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in collaboration with Nijmegen, which was named European Green Capital this year by the European Commission. Signatories of the Declaration of Nijmegen include BCTN, Heineken, Friesland Campina, North Sea Port, NedCargo, Danser Group, Port-Liner and the cities of Rotterdam and Nijmegen.
The participating parties are going to proceed according to a three-step approach. The first step is a cross-border study of sustainable inland shipping solutions, which will last until late 2020. Step two requires the sector to come up with commercially feasible ideas in public-private pilot projects, which will subsequently be widely implemented if successful.
Participants of Ports and the City were guests in the city of Nijmegen. Mayor Hubert Bruls said that his city is investing in on-shore electric facilities, encouraging the use of clean fuels and participating in pilot projects with electric ships running on liquid gas. Nijmegen benefits from the Waal River, but it also suffers tremendously from air pollution on one of the busiest inland shipping routes in Europe.
Via a video message, Karmenu Vella – European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – stressed the importance of pioneering cities such as Nijmegen. ‘Europe needs good role models.’ The ports of Duisburg and Ghent provided inspiration during the workshops on the first day of the conference. Businesses and knowledge institutes addressed the possibilities of using hydrogen, for example, as compressed gas or even as powder. Lively discussions during some of the sessions unleashed the energy required to move forward the process of introducing clean technology in inland shipping.
Urban Partnership for Air Quality
On 13 April, the second day of the conference, the main focus was on inland shipping in relation to Europe and the European member states. René Korenromp, who works at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management for the Smart and Healthy City programme, is also coordinator of the European Urban Partnership for Air Quality, a project in which several cities and governments are participating and sharing knowledge and experiences. ‘We started to look for gaps in regulation and implementation two years ago.’
The partners expect to have a recommendation for the European Commission and for cities and countries later this year. They will also look at ways to improve the planning of a range of measures. ‘That may seem an obvious thing to do,’ Korenromp says, ‘but best practices show how important it is.’ In addition, attention will be devoted to the right funding for investments in inland shipping, for better ways of measuring emissions and for campaigns to increase stakeholders’ enthusiasm for a cleaner inland shipping sector.
Deputy of Water and Transport by Water in the province of Zuid-Holland, Rik Janssen, advocated seamless corridors by smart shipping. Inland shipping needs to become greener faster in order to remain competitive with road and rail, according to Janssen. The main considerations are that no single party can ensure a faster passage – think, for example, of a ‘green wave’ for commercial vessels – and that making the fleet greener requires high individual investments in inland shipping that have a long payback period. In the province of Zuid-Holland, inland shipping is ‘linked’ to traffic management centres in order to promote the flow of road transport and commercial shipping.
An interesting question for discussion on this day was: What is the biggest dilemma standing in the way of clean inland shipping: legislation, funding or knowledge? Ultimately it came down to the required investments in individual ships and hence the business model of shipmasters. The impression is that the shipmasters need to be encouraged and supported in this matter, with a level playing field, in which citizens could potentially also contribute to cleaner transport by water via a CO2 tax. It was pointed out that citizens stand to gain health benefits from it. A forerunner in sustainability is Port-Liner, recently developed by a family business called Van Meegen. The current director, Ton van Meegen, proudly showed an animation of his first fully electric cargo vessel.
René Korenromp closed the conference with the observation that working together in Europe is a condition for achieving cleaner inland shipping. ‘After all, we’re not talking about a Dutch or a German fleet but about a fleet that navigates throughout Europe.’ Moreover, Korenromp stressed the need to stop talking about the air quality problem and start talking about improving health.
Finally, Korenromp handed the large sign with all of the signatures under the Declaration of Nijmegen to the Nijmegen alderman of mobility and sustainability, Harriët Tiemens, with the promise to return to the city next year to see what the first year has yielded.
More information on the conference can be found in the press release (NL) from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.