Energy-saving investments clear the way for shore-based power

Published on Thu 16 Sep 2021
For inland shipping captains who invest in energy-saving measures, shore-based power is becoming an alternative to the traditional onboard diesel generator. This is the conclusion of 26 energy scans conducted on inland vessels.

The scans were offered free of charge by North Sea Port, the Flemish government and the Port of Antwerp in order to promote the use of shore-based power by inland vessels. A win-win-win for the captain, surrounding residents and the environment.

Shorepower is an environmentally friendly and quiet way to provide European inland vessels with electricity. Shorepower stations are available in the Port of Antwerp, in the North Sea Port and along Flemish waterways. Research shows that they could be used more often. The outcomes of the study are supported by the European partners in the Clean Inland Shipping Project.

In order to raise awareness and increase interest in shore-based power in the inland shipping sector, at the end of September last year the Port of Antwerp, the North Sea Port and the Flemish government (The Flemish Waterways Authority and the Department of Mobility and Public Works) issued an appeal for candidates for a free energy scan. Twenty-six inland shipping vessels responded to this call. There was also interest from abroad in organizing these kinds of energy scans. For instance, requests were also received from the Netherlands and Germany.

Effect on air and noise

Currently, most inland shipping captains produce the energy they need with their own diesel generators, although this does cause noise pollution and CO2 and nitrogen emissions. In the context of promoting cleaner air and low-noise environments, the transition to shore-based power for inland shipping captains is being encouraged. This has a direct impact on the environment and the people living in the vicinity of our busy waterways.

The changeover seems obvious but is not so evident for many inland shipping captains: many of the ships are not yet technically equipped to be plugged in safely. Investments must therefore be made in order to be able to use shorepower.

Recouped in 4 years

From the energy scans carried out, it appears that on average, investments pay for themselves within four years due to the energy savings that are achieved. The 26 ships together saved 1.9 GWh on an annual basis, or as much as what 63 families use in electricity in a single year. That amounts to 499 tonnes less CO2 emissions per year.

The savings differ per type of ship: a tanker or inland container ship can save as much as the equivalent of 4.5 families per year. A dry bulk barge that makes all the modifications saves about as much as one family. In total, there are about one thousand inland waterway ships in Belgium.

Part of the European CLINSH research project

These energy scans form part of the European Clean Inland Shipping (CLINSH) research project, which in turn falls under the European Life Programme which focuses on the environment, nature conservation and climate action. It is aimed at improving air quality through the conversion and monitoring of inland shipping vessels on the one hand, and facilitating shore-based power infrastructure on the other. This public-private partnership brings together organizations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and England and is running from 2016 to February 2022. More info is available at

On Thursday 16 and Friday 17 September, a consortium meeting will be held in the Belgian city of Ghent.

Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works: "Inland shipping is an essential and sustainable link in the transport of goods to and from the seaports. Shore-based power helps make transport even more sustainable, as it reduces the energy consumption of inland shipping vessels, cuts down on emissions and noise levels. By making these energy scans possible, we support innovation and the decarbonisation of transport. In short, an important step in improving the sustainability of our logistic flows to and from the seaports."

Daan Schalck, CEO North Sea Port: "Already, 58% of the transport between the harbour area of North Sea Port and the surrounding countryside is carried out by inland shipping. Rolling out shore-based power to inland ships makes inland shipping and transport throughout Europe even more sustainable.

Annick De Ridder, Antwerp Port Alderman: “Inland shipping captains can buy 100% green electricity from the shore-based power stations of the Port of Antwerp. These energy scans show that it pays off for them to convert their electrical installations on board for this purpose."

Shore-based power in Flanders

On the website of the Flemish Inland Waterway Shipping Services Platform (Vlaams Binnenvaartservicesplatform) inland shipping captains can find an overview of the network of shore-based power facilities in Flanders and the information they need to make use of these facilities. For more information see