For sustainable inland shipping, focus on results and not on certificates

Source: Press release on CLINSH midterm conference. Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Sustainable inland shipping is within reach, but calls for a different approach from ports, transport companies and shippers. Rather than focusing on certificates for particular engines and environmental systems, we should actually be looking at the environmental benefits achieved by the skipper. This is according to the partners in the European LIFE-project CLINSH (CLean INland SHipping), who are meeting at the Flemish government’s Department of Mobility and Public Works on 13 March.

Inland shipping is a sustainable form of transport in itself”, argues Rik Janssen, member of the Zuid-Holland provincial executive, who chairs the CLINSH consortium. “But it can be even more sustainable. Until now, customers and port authorities have been focusing on specific types of engines and environmental systems. This is despite the fact that our measurements in practice have revealed that other ships can be at least as clean as certified ships. In other words, improving the sustainability of inland shipping can be cheaper, faster and more efficient!

Practical trial

An important part of CLINSH is the practical trial of sustainable inland shipping. In it, advanced equipment is being used to continually monitor the actual emissions of 35 inland vessels during use. The vessels participating in the trial are using a variety of engines and fuels and sustainable technologies such as catalytic converters, aftertreatment systems and particulate filters. Skippers taking part receive a payment for any modifications required to their vessels and as compensation for their efforts. The data they collect is being used to identify the environmental benefits of the various technologies. The trial will also offer an insight into the business case for skippers or vessel owners – demonstrating whether a particular investment is financially and environmentally worthwhile. This provides useful information for other skippers and for government bodies, financial institutions and special-interest organisations that wish to contribute to sustainable inland shipping.

Untapped opportunities

Currently, skippers who can demonstrate that they have a clean sustainable vessel qualify for specific advantages. These include discounts on mooring fees and port dues and a higher price for freight transport. However, individual skippers often face significant investments when improving the sustainability of their vessels. At the same time, technologies for which no certificate is available offer no operational advantages. As a result, there are still untapped opportunities for further improving the sustainability of the entire European fleet of inland vessels. The CLINSH partners aim to change that by identifying the environmental benefit of all available technologies.


CLINSH is a demonstration project that aims to chart the effectiveness and costs of emission-reducing technologies and alternative fuels in practice. CLINSH is supported by the European LIFE fund. With a total cost of more than € 8.5 million, the project aims to enable 16 partners from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom to invest with the European LIFE fund in a range of projects that contribute to sustainable inland shipping.

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