Autonomous electric container barges coming to Europe


(AMSTERDAM, Netherlands) — A Dutch manufacturer is building autonomous electric barges, dubbed the "Tesla of the Canals," that will begin operating in August on the waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands, Renewable Energy Magazine reported.

The 170-foot-long unmanned vessels are being built by the Dutch manufacturer Port Liner, part of the Van Meegen group. The first five will be able to transport 24 TEUs with a weight of up to 425 tons, with much larger barges planned in a later phase.

The electric motors will be powered by large Tesla batteries that will provide the vessels with 15 hours of navigation and will be recharged ashore by the energy supplier Eneco, with electricity generated by solar, wind or other renewable sources. 

Although initially the vessels will be manned, they are designed to operate autonomously as new infrastructure is developed around the busiest waterways in Europe. It is expected that as a result, about 23,000 trucks, mainly diesel-powered, will be removed from the roads. 

Tom van Meegen, executive chairman of Port Liner, said the barges will be the first in the world to sail with carbon-neutral batteries and could carry more cargo if it were not for the height of the river bridges in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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By Professional Mariner Staff