The path to zero-emission inland waterway transport

The path to zero-emission inland waterway transport

9 May 2023 | News

Waterborne transport is critical to the global economy because ships are the most efficient mode of freight transport. At the same time, shipping accounts for 2.7% of global GHG emissions. As the global economy grows, total shipping emissions could account for at least 5-10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if no actions were to be taken. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urged the maritime industry to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reduce the emission intensity to zero by 2050 to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. The PATH2ZERO research project has therefore started and collaborates with the inland shipping sector to contribute to the transition to zero-emission inland shipping. This project builds upon existing research of the TU Delft.

Supporting bunker infrastructure
The availability of supporting bunker infrastructure for zero-emission energy sources will be key to accommodate zero-emission inland waterway transport (IWT). Man Jiang and colleagues have researched corridor scale planning of such bunker infrastructure with a focus on the positioning and dimensions of bunkering points, download the paper here. This casts light upon the coordination between involved parties like vessel operators, energy suppliers, authorities and manufacturers to make long-term benefits and concrete implementation plans for all stakeholders.

Zero-emission inland shipping
The evaluation of zero-emission strategies, the effectiveness of policies, technologies and the assessment of the consequences of their implementation on the inland shipping system is a difficult task. In the research project PATH2ZERO (PAving THe way towards Zero-Emission and RObust inland shipping), a large consortium led by TU Delft will spend 5 years researching business models and action perspectives for zero-emission inland shipping. The goal of is to develop a data-driven virtual representation of the inland shipping system. This digital twin can be potentially used for assessing the efficiency of proposed solutions capturing potential trade-offs of the interventions in the system. This represents the system with all relevant components in a realistic way, which is to be validated by real-world data. Subsequently, future scenarios can be imposed on the digital twin, and proposed intervention measures can be applied, based on which their efficiency can be assessed together with the inland shipping sector.

Next steps
Three aspects are regarded to be vital components of the digital twin: the individual vessels, the logistic chains, and the infrastructure. As these research topics span various scales, ranging from a single vessel to an entire infrastructure network, an agent-based approach is suitable for forming the basis of the digital twin. Consequently, potential interventions will be considered ranging from the application of new technologies to individual vessels to policy measures that are implemented for an entire shipping corridor, or various bunker infrastructure strategies in the network. Additionally, the impact of the implemented interventions will be evaluated at any desired scale, ranging from the individual ship level and its emissions to the network level and the aggregated emissions in an entire area, or the impact on the logistic chain.

SmartPort will be involved in the research program PATH2ZERO to connect the involved stakeholders of the Port of Rotterdam to the fundamental research. In order to make steps towards a sustainable and futureproof shipping sector, it must be ensured that developed knowledge will be used in practice.

More information
For more information, please contact Remi van der Wijk (project developer Future-proof Port Infrastructure at SmartPort) or Dr. Alex Kirichek (project leader PATH2ZERO from TU Delft).