Greening of inland waterway transport needs a boost

published: 17-10-2018

Today, a consortium consisting of Panteia/NEA, Planco, Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, Expertise and Innovation Centre for Barging and via donau published their final report.

The final report concerns the impacts of policy options to reduce air pollutant emissions of inland waterway transport in Europe. This study was funded by the European Commission and provides a basis for the European Commission to develop new emission standards for propulsion engines used in vessels in the framework of the NAIADES II policy. The consortium concludes that imposing strict emission limits is feasible. There are very significant benefits for the society that clearly outweigh the additional costs for the transport industry to meet more strict emission standards. Every 1 euro additional costs for the transport industry will result in savings of around 40 euro for society.

A growing concern regarding inland waterway transport (IWT) is the poor progress made by IWT on reducing the air pollutant emissions of vessels that are harmful to human health such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). Despite of the scale advantage of IWT the external costs per tonkm of air pollutant of IWT are already higher than road haulage and the gap is quickly increasing due to the introduction of Euro VI engines in trucks. Although IWT is a very safe transport mode with lower emissions of CO2, without specific action the present competitive advantage of IWT industry in terms of the overall environmental performance will be jeopardised. This cannot be achieved by means of voluntary action only, new emission standards are needed here.

The European Commission asked the consortium to consider the ways to to close the gap of external costs of NOx and PM emissions from inland navigation compared with road haulage. The consortium therefore studied different options for emission limits for new and existing engines in IWT. It was concluded that a reduction of emissions of about 87% in IWT would be needed compared to continuation of the current practice to close the gap between road and inland navigation. In order to reach this target, also existing engines must be subjected to more stringent emission standards. There are technical options available to use after treatment systems derived from road haulage (Euro VI) technologies to reduce the air pollutant emissions by 80 to 90%. Moreover, there are interesting possibilities to use alternative fuels such as LNG to reduce emissions on the larger vessels.

Moreover it was concluded that it is most effective and efficient to impose the strictest emission limits to larger vessels since these vessels are responsible for the vast majority of the transport performance and the related external costs. The consortium concluded that there are win-win situations to be expected in large parts of the market linked to the use of LNG. The expected savings on fuel cost in case of application of LNG will largely offset the additional investment costs for a retrofit or a new engine on LNG. This is in particular the case for the category of large new vessels. Smaller vessels, though, may face less strict emission standards or possibly even may be exempted as concerns existing engines.

The study shows that it is possible to realise a very high reduction of air pollutant emissions. However, in order to achieve this, further action is needed on the following areas:

  • Development of the legal framework such as the implementation of new emission standards for new engines (Non-Road Mobile Machinery Directive) as well as existing engines;
  • Development of financing schemes and support instruments for enabling vessel owners to make the investments in clean engine technologies;
  • Development of technologies, for example to optimise the usage of LNG and after treatment systems.
Download the full Final Report of the Study “Contribution to impact assessment of measures for reducing emissions of inland navigation” below.

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