Tag Archives: Commercial Boat Operators Association

Promoting a cleaner environment: water transport

Why get stuck in a traffic jam and miss delivery deadlines? Cut costs, cut emissions and cut fuel consumption and deliver on time on the waterways. This was one of the themes at the Commercial Boat Operators Association’s AGM at Digbeth’s Bond Warehouse. The full report may be seen here.

cboa 2 header

CBOA is a trade organisation which aims to sustain and increase freight carriage on our waterways. Advantages are economies of scale and fuel efficiency, decongested roads, fewer fatalities and injuries and higher energy efficiency, producing less air pollution with lower emissions. Large loads are taken off the roads: from aggregates down the Severn, grain down the Mersey and a ‘serious enquiry’ about carrying sludge and biomass along the Leeds and Liverpool canal. CRT news reports that last June a 270 tonne electricity transformer (weighing as much as 18 doubledecker buses) was delivered to Hull and transported on the River Trent to Staythorpe Power Station.

Peter MathewsThe writer had an informal exchange with Peter Mathews, the chairman of the West Midlands Canals and Rivers Trust. As he said he was keen to make links with local universities he was given three leaflets passed on by Birmingham’s Professor Rex Harris, who has worked with a team to convert a barge to run on hydrogen fuel. Ian Lane, Waterways manager (WMCRT), came for the last hour only, but whilst walking back to city with him it emerged that both have many creative ideas – some centring on the new Icknield Port development.

There were three invited speakers:

The first speaker was Antoon van Coillie of Blue Line Logistics, Belgium. This dynamic entrepreneur said that in due course his company’s barges will transfer to hydrogen fuel. An umbrella organisation, Inland Navigation Europe, promotes waterway transport in Europe: “After all, why get stuck in a traffic jam and miss deadlines when you can cut costs and deliver on time on the waterways? Increased waterway traffic is so important because it is not only cost-effective, it also makes for a more sustainable transport network. INE strongly believes in the innovation power of waterway transport, both in terms of organisation and technology: “On new ships, air emissions such as NOx and PM are also radically decreased. The same development is expected soon for existing vessels . . . Next to optimized propulsion and dual fuel LNG vessels, we see the first vessels emerging that run on hydrogen and electricity”.

cboa greenstream100% LNG driven ship, emission reduction 80% Nox, 100% SO2, 99% PM10, 25% CO2, 18% energy savings

The second speaker was Dr Tom Cherrett, University of Southampton, who described plans to set up a floating depot (dummy barge) like those in Amsterdam. A floating depot will be used by TNT for collecting and delivering parcels in the city centre.

floating depot amsterdamIt will be moved by boat using the canal network and small electric vehicles will undertake the last-mile deliveries. Dr Cherrett is one year into a three-year project for the floating depot which is designed to reduce the impact of freight and service trips. 24 partners are on board.

“We see the first vessels emerging that run on hydrogen and electricity”

The third speaker Steven R. Mears, is a senior naval architect with Keel Marine Ltd, which designs all types of craft and trades worldwide. They are moving towards designing hybrid power systems which offer motors/generators running at optimum efficiency/emissions. This provoked quite sharp questioning from two audience members as to why they were not ‘going for hydrogen’. Mr Mears sees the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell as being ‘some way off yet from being low cost and readily available’, adding that ‘LNG and hydrogen means the tanks take up lot of space’.

Those who support the use of the cleanest form of fuel should note Professor Rex Harris’* point that hydrogen tanks take up the space usually given to ballast – and he lists other advantages here:

hydrogen 32fuel future graphic

A small team set up the Protium project which applies new technologies (eg solid state hydrogen stores, permanent magnet drives) to a traditional mode of transportation, in a practical demonstration of how to redress atmospheric and fresh water pollution and resource depletion, by long term sustainable means.

Because this is an inherently efficient mode of transportation, the use of hydrogen in this context is expected to become commercially viable at a much earlier stage than in automotive applications.

*Professor Rex Harris, Department of Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham. I.R.Harris@bham.ac.uk Web page: www.hydrogen.bham.ac.uk




Congratulations to London’s River Concordat, the Mayor and his Ambassador for River Transport

Clean air is one of the essential requirements of a civilised society. Greater use of waterborne transport is an innovation of benefit to the environment, preserving and returning to use the waterways

a barge carrying biomass
a barge carrying biomass

A brief overview of the environmental and economic benefits of waterborne transport follows. Goods arrive as and when they are wanted – and a 500 tonne load saves 25 lorry trips. David Lowe of the Commercial Boat Operators Association writes that water freight produces just 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted by road transport. The biggest commercial advantages are the savings in fuel and labour. Barges use fuel more efficiently because there is less friction to overcome – and can use as little as one-quarter of the fuel of lorries, leaving a significantly reduced carbon footprint. The Freight Transport Association estimates that fuel accounts for 40% of the costs associated with truck transport but only 20% for water transport systems. Lowe points out that one or two men working a barge can move more product than one or two men driving a truck.

canal freight flyerThe CBOA advocates a reduction in costs, road congestion and air pollution by removing heavy freight from lorries to barges where there are suitable routes – and Professor Harris’ Protium project goes further, environmentally speaking, having designed a prototype hydrogen-fuelled barge. Read more here.

There has been news of increased freight shipping activity on the Thames where vessels are transporting a total of five million tons of earth excavated from Crossrail’s tunnels downstream to Kent and Essex. The increase in commercial traffic has led to the expansion of London Gateway port.

The latest figures from Transport for London show increased passenger activity on the Thames, a tidal river. The River Action Plan, launched last year, described measures designed to increase the number of river passengers to 12 million by 2020; last year they had already increased to 8.5 million – significant growth in both River Bus and River Tours services.  The Putney to Blackfriars River Bus service has seen a 130% increase in passenger numbers since its re-launch in April and two more morning and three evening sailings have been introduced.

river thames news headerLondon River Services is responsible for managing eight piers on the river: Westminster, Festival, Embankment, Millbank, Blackfriars, Bankside, Tower and Greenwich. To ensure that continued growth in demand is matched by pier capacity, work is being progressed to extend Bankside, Embankment and Westminster by 2015 and are building new piers at Battersea Power Station and Plantation Wharf. Plans for piers at Convoys Wharf in Deptford, Enderby Wharf in Greenwich and the western side of North Greenwich Peninsula are also underway.

River Tours have seen growth of approximately 20% in journeys on the Thames during 2013/14. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, brought together over 40 organisations to form a River Concordat in 2009 and appointed Richard Tracey AM as the Mayor’s Ambassador for River Transport, charged with boosting its growth. He said: `We are looking to the future with plans to build further new piers and to expand existing facilities, remaining on course to reach 12 million passengers travelling on the Thames by 2020.’

Report: road freight over 300km should shift to rail or waterborne transport

1pteg header

In February, the Passenger Transport Executive Group – pteg – which brings together and promotes the interests of the six strategic transport bodies serving the largest city regions outside London, published a report: ‘Delivering the future: New approaches to urban freight’.

It highlighted the role of urban freight in the UK economy and envisaged that every opportunity should be taken for freight to make its way into urban areas by rail or water or into the distribution parks that serve them.

As the report’s main focus was on ‘last mile’ journeys, it argued that those distribution sites should be located so that goods could travel the last mile(s) into urban centres with as little environmental impact as possible using zero/low emission modes.

1domestic freight pie chart

The European Commission’s goal is that 30% of road freight over 300km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors.’ The writer is particularly interested in the use of our extensive networks of inland waterways – a neglected and underused resource in comparison with other European countries where larger inland waterways are used as major freight routes as well as for making deliveries directly to city centre businesses. One of the brief case studies cited:

The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands uses a zero emission electric boat to make deliveries in the city centre. Owned and run by the city and known as the ‘Beer Boat’, the vessel makes six trips, four days a week supplying more than 60 catering businesses located along the canal network. Funding for the boat came from the city’s air quality improvement budget.

1utrecht canalside2

The advantages of water transport of freight include:

  • greater safety: a key advantage of  water freight over road freight is that it is largely separated from pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,
  • lower emissions,
  • lower fuel costs (by water),
  • less need for road and track maintenance,
  • less road traffic congestion: water freight has the potential to cut congestion. A modern barge operating on an inland waterway can carry up to 550 tonnes in some areas and up to 1,500 tonnes on larger waterways. In the UK most lorries can carry up to 29 tonnes.
  • less noise and vibration,
  • improved quality of life and urban environment.

1barge freight load

To enable more road freight to transfer onto water, ‘network capacity enhancements’ should be undertaken, including the development of a more extensive network of water-connected distribution sites, more support for ongoing maintenance of waterways and the removal of barriers (such as low bridges or narrow locks) to ensure that they can accommodate more freight traffic.

Infrastructure for the loading and unloading of waterborne freight can also be available in cities that have rivers or canals passing through them, although freight must often compete against potentially more remunerative uses for the land, such as residential and office developments.

1pteg graphic

Government, in partnership with local authorities, could work to ensure that all major new distribution parks are planned with a presumption of rail and/or water connections so that suitable sites are identified nationally and protected for freight use and the development of Urban Consolidation Centres (UCCs) with rail and water-connected distribution sites is encouraged, reducing inefficiencies and ensuring that low emission modes are a practical option for the last mile.

For more news on freight by water go to the Commercial Boat Operators Association

Biomass loads carried on waterways: cleaner and cheaper


Luke Geiver, Associate Editor of Biomass Power & Thermal, records that there have been an increasing number of inquiries from energy developers who want to transport biomass via barge on the country’s inland waterways.

Traditionally barges on British waterways have carried steel, timber, aggregates, oil, bricks, coal and, more recently, waste and recycling materials.

In many instances, according to David Lowe of the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA), moving biomass on a canal or river system can save time and money. This creates a competitive advantage for product which can be sourced and processed in close proximity to the waterway – “waterside to waterside,” as Stuart McKenzie, freight operations manager of British Waterways says.

Environmental benefits

McKenzie adds that waterway transport provides environmental benefits – according to Lowe, water freight produces just 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted by road transportation.

Commercial advantage

a barge carrying biomass

The biggest commercial advantage is linked to savings in fuel and labour. The Freight Transport Association estimates that fuel accounts for 40% of the costs associated with truck transport but only 20% for water transport systems. Lowe points out that one or two men working a barge can move more product than one or two men driving a truck.

Dalkia has acquired the necessary planning permits to use the Aire & Calder navigational canal network to transport 360,000 metric tons of wood waste annually for use at a 53 MW power facility currently under development. They will use shipping containers to ensure time-saving and efficient loading and unloading processes.

As the costs of traditional roadway transport are closely tied to rising diesel fuel costs, there might be increasing interest in canal freight.

To read the full article, which adds news about American operations, go to http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/6237/inland-asset