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Port-Liner’s Fully Electric Autonomous Container Barges to Launch this August

Port-Liner, a ship-building company in the Netherlands, is set to launch the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container barges in August. The company has developed the vessels as a carbon-free and efficient way to transport goods along Europe’s waterways. Once operational, Port-Liner’s barges will be an emission-free alternative to diesel-powered trucks and vans.

The battery-powered barges are designed to be fully autonomous cargo vessels. Port Liner’s barges will initially traverse canals in Belgium and the Netherlands. Consequently, this summer will see the vessels start to service ports in Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam.

Port-Liner Crew-less Electric Barges


Port-Liner is now looking ahead to the launch of its fully electric barges, – the first in Europe. While Port-Liner has also designed its barges to be fully autonomous and operate without a crew, the vessels will be manned for their initial phase of operation.

Port-Liner’s barges are also designed with the inland waterways found in the Netherlands and Belgium in mind. As a result, the cargo barges can easily go under the network of bridges that traverse the waterways.  The barges’ electric motors are powered by massive 20 ft long batteries with each charge providing around 15 hours of power.

As Port-Liner’s barges are electric-powered, industry insiders have dubbed them the ‘Tesla of the canals.’ But their electric power is not only the barge’s advantage over traditional transportation methods, however. Without the need for a crew, Port Liner barges come with almost 10% more storage space. In addition, the barge’s batteries will charged by a carbon-free energy provider.

With such clean energy credentials, these new vessels are set to disrupt the fossil fuel transportation industry.

Port-Liner is planning to launch five barges this August. The vessels will measure 6.7 metres wide and 52 metres long. Each barge can move over 400 tonnes, and has enough space to carry 20 containers each. In fact, the barges are capable of holding more containers but the low bridges over canals prevent this. As a result, the company believes its barges are capable of taking over 20 000 diesel vans and trucks off the roads annually.

Related: Autonomous Ships: Rolls Royce Planning to Build Self Sailing Sea-craft

A diesel-powered FedEx truck making deleiveries – ©-bigapplestock

A Clean Energy Alternative to Diesel-Powered Trucks

Port-Liner will not be stopping there either: a successful roll-out will see more barges join the first five. In future, the company plans to launch six larger barges that can transport a significantly bigger number of containers. The larger barges are reported to be capable of moving up to nearly 300 containers at a time! All in all, Port-Liners electric barges are a step in the right direction for mass goods transit.

Admittedly the solution works well in countries and cities with extensive canal networks as opposed to those that don’t. However, the underlying technology can then be used on seafaring ships and other water-borne vessels as well. Presumably navigating the open seas is surely less challenging than a series of canals and bridges. So what this represents is a significant step in the electrification of all future water-based transport.

In the same space, British Engineering giant Rolls Royce is already working on an autonomous ship of its own as well. However, Rolls Royce’s vessel is still some away from production.

There will obviously be disruption in the goods freight industry the coming years. Some of that disruption may mean the loss of existing jobs. However, the benefits of electric-powered vehicles cannot be ignored. As such advances in clean energy will always be welcome. Not only do they provide an environmentally friendly solution to the movement of goods, they also improve efficiency and safety too.

Also published on Medium.


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