Making inland shipping more sustainable quickly: good for nature and housing

published: 06-07-2021

Equipping inland shipping engines with a catalyst reduces their nitrogen load (NOx) by 80 to 95%. Natura 2000 areas with vulnerable nature will benefit from the reduction of nitrogen deposition. In the Netherlands, the situation in nature is such that additional nitrogen emissions cannot be permitted. Not even for building houses or roads, for example. The reduction of nitrogen deposition on vulnerable N2000-areas can be used for economic, such as building houses in cities along the major rivers. At present, this is not possible, as the nitrogen released during the construction work leads to additional emissions on the already fragile and overloaded nature. That is why Gelderland is arguing for accelerated sustainability of inland shipping and is calling on the central government to increase the available budget from € 79 (Clean Air Agreement) to 200 million.


Small effort, big result
In Gelderland, a large area of Natura 2000 areas are located along or near the major rivers. The Province commissioned Expertise and Innovation Centre for Inland Shipping (EICB), in cooperation with Panteia, to investigate how much nature is affected by nitrogen effects from inland shipping. The results are clear: inland shipping causes only a small part of the total nitrogen impact on nature. But when a ship invests in a clean engine, this results in a lot of nitrogen gain per ship. If we want to achieve this result within a few years, then we must now focus on accelerating the process of sustainability.


Economic importance
Every year, 70,000 ships sail over (for example) the Waal to transport goods from Rotterdam to Germany and vice versa. So much water transport offers economic opportunities that we would like to take advantage of. The share of inland shipping in Gelderland is over 30%. Unfortunately, this is also reflected in considerably increased nitrogen precipitation in some parts of the Rhine branches along the Waal up to the Veluwe. Whereas deposition of nitrogren in many nature areas is already 10 mol per hectare per year, along the N2000-area Rijntakken it is more than 40 mol per hectare per year in some places.


Scaling up
The initiative of Gelderland incites 9 other provinces to do the same research. In this way, a great many shipping movements were investigated. It turned out that part of the nitrogen is blown away over large distances. By investing an additional € 121 million now, the national government can achieve a short-term national goal: to reduce nitrogen deposition on Natura 2000 areas. This is the conclusion of the EICB. With this investment, half of all inland vessels under Dutch flag can become sustainable. For the longer term, solutions must be sought at the national and international level, such as zero-emission engines on clean engines.


Gelderland Nitrogen Measures
This research is part of the Gelderse Maatregelen Stikstof project. The province is working together with sector parties from Gelderland: mobility, construction, agriculture, nature, industry, municipal regions and water boards. Together we are working on the structural reduction of nitrogen precipitation, nature recovery and making sectors more sustainable.

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