Shipbuilding group Damen Shipyards, hatchbuilder Blommaert Aluminium and solar energy specialist Wattlab have developed hatches with solar panels for inland vessels. Since this month, a first trial installation has been sailing through Europe.

The consortium hopes the hatches accelerate the transition to sustainable inland shipping. A fully equipped ship with an average surface area of 850 m2 could save up to 100,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year with solar panels on its hatches. An amount equivalent to the emissions of 700 flights from Amsterdam to Paris. According to the companies involved, a ship with an electric motor (for example, hybrid or diesel-electric) could use the energy generated for propulsion, saving more than ten per cent fuel.

In addition, the use of diesel generators to supply power on board is reduced. As a result, the solar panels can also be installed on ships without electric propulsion. The use of solar energy in inland navigation reduces local air pollution and noise pollution in ports. They also make skippers less dependent on shore power points.


A first trial installation of solar hatches has been sailing through Europe on the Oleander since this month. The power generated by the hatches is fed into the on-board grid. ‘I have wanted to use the energy of the sun that falls on my ship for years. The benefits are numerous, fewer emissions, less wear and tear on generators and less fuel consumption, which reduces operating costs,’ says the captain-owner of the Oleander.

Over a short period of time, initiator Wattlab has developed into an expert in making custom solar energy systems and did projects for Airbus and Picnic, among others. Based in Rotterdam, Wattlab develops and produces solar panels and solar foils for applications in aviation and shipping, construction and urban mobility. Blommaert Aluminium Constructions is market leader in the design and production of aluminium ship hatches for inland shipping. Blommaert and Wattlab work closely together to make the hatches suitable for integration of solar panels, cabling and connections.

Damen Shipyards supervises the project by advising on product development and the market.