With exchangeable batteries it is possible to operate barges electrically on a larger scale. They do not need to be plugged in for a long time, but can place a new battery on board during loading and unloading and continue their journey.

This idea has been embraced by ING, energy and technical service provider ENGIE, maritime technology company Wärtsilä and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. Beer brewer Heineken has already agreed to use the new energy system to transport beer. It is expected that the first fully electric barge can be commissioned before the end of the year.

A new company has been set up to take care of everything: Zero Emission Services (ZES). This company will ensure that ships will soon be able to change batteries, so-called ZESPacks, at several locations in the Netherlands. ZESPacks look like containers and can be transported in the cargo hold of the ship. With two of these types of batteries on board, a ship can travel approximately 50 to 100 kilometres.


To make it easier for barge operators to sign-on to the concept, a “pay-per-use” financing model has been developed. In this way, ZES charges only for the cost of consumed renewable energy plus a rental fee for the battery container, so the skipper’s operating costs remain competitive. However, vessels must be equipped with an electric propulsion line.

The first electric ship will sail from Heineken’s brewery in Zoeterwoude to the port in Moerdijk. The first battery charging point will be on this route. In Moerdijk, Heineken will collect beer in order to ship it further to the port of Rotterdam, for example.

ZES is still looking into the possibilities for loading points for the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp route and a connection to Nijmegen. The first phase of the project involves a total investment of 20 million euros. Several parties have already shown interest in the new system.

Eventually ZES wants to move the entire inland shipping sector to emission-free sailing. ‘We’ll start with batteries, but if hydrogen becomes cheaper in the future, the containers with hydrogen technology will be able to supply electricity in the same way,’ explains ZES director Willem Dedden.

Source: ANP

Picture by ZES.