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Greening Inland Shipping – One year on

In Autumn 2019 we hosted London’s first Greening Inland Shipping conference. Just over a year on, we reconvened, online, to keep track of and update on the progress that has been made since.

The PLA hosted more than 150 guests at its Greening Inland Shipping webinar on 5 November where panellists described work taking place to reduce inland shipping emissions in the UK and elsewhere.

The highlight of the event was the PLA’s announcement of its net zero targets, to halve emissions by 2024 and achieve net zero by 2040, and the introduction of the Thames Green Scheme, to encourage operators to pursue green targets.

The event was chaired Dr Tim Moonen, who also chaired the inaugural Greening Inland Shipping event last year.

The first panellist was Edwin Pang, a naval architect, who gave an overview of environmental marine innovation. He described how Stena is recycling of car batteries to create quayside to enable the fast charging of electric vessels and said there were more than 60 other trials of zero emission ship technology and fuel production underway around the world.

Chester Lewis, a consultant with E4tech, described the work he had down with the PLA in creating their road map to net zero emission.

Dr Paul Hellier, a lecturer in engines and fuels at University College London described some of the qualities and complexities of biofuels and how they can help reduce emissions.

He was followed by our director of planning and environment, Jim Trimmer, who announced the PLA’s net zero plan before outlining the environmental benefits of using the river for freight.

Tanya Ferry, head of environment, introduced the Thames Green Scheme in which operators would be rewarded for their positive impact on the environment with Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.

The panellists then answered some of the more than 50 questions put forward before the PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer thanked everyone involved and highlighted some key themes. Robin emphasized the importance of coalition and partnership combating climate change, saying the PLA may take the lead in some initiatives but we were very much part of a global solution. Secondly, he focused on the need to find innovative ways to finance technological change as public finance may be stretched for years. “This is critical. None of this is going to happen unless we can find ways to make it cost effective along with business operations,” he said. Finally, Robin highlighted the need for urgency and making no regret investment decisions while all the new forms of green technology are tested and evaluated.

In the meantime, the PLA would be happy to collaborate with operators and interested parties in a working group to maintain the momentum towards a net zero port. “There is no time to delay. Some of the investment decision if we are going to achieve net zero by 2050 or 2040 the PLA ambition have to be made now, so we need to get on with it,” Robin said.

Top row: Dr. Tim Moonen, chair of the webinar; James Trimmer, PLA director of planning and environment; Naval architect Edwin Pang; Bottom row: Tanya Ferry, PLA head of envirtonment; Dr Paul Hellier, mechanical engineering deputy programme director UCL; Chester Lewis, E4 Tech

Global innovation

The recycling of car batteries to create quayside power banks is among the many green innovations in the maritime sector, according to Edwin Pang, a naval architect and consultant.

He told the Greening Inland Shipping audience how Stena is experimenting with new energy storage to enable the fast charging of electric vessels as part of his overview of recent developments.

He said there were at least 66 trials of zero emission ship technology and fuel production underway around the world aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful substances.

“In fuel production, there seems to be a bias towards hydrogen, although ammonia and methanol are catching up and there are lots of biofuel trials,” he said.

Alternative fuels range from hydrogen and ammonia to drop in replacement fuels such as biodiesel. “There is a no clear winner. All the projects are ongoing. There are challenges all round. There are sustainability issues with methanol slip, nitrous oxide slip with ammonia, toxicity issues with ammonia and methanol, density issues with some of these alternative fuels. And there are local air quality issues with drop in replacement fuels,” said Pang.

Alternative fuel projects include:

  • Future Proof Shipping in the Netherlands plan to convert a 110m barge to run on hydrogen
  • Kawasaki has launched Suiso Frontier, a diesel-powered liquid hydrogen tanker to import liquid hydrogen to Japan from Australia.
  • Electric and hybrid vessels are being built and used all over the world. Pang said: “Full electric really works with smaller vessels, with less demanding operating profiles and when you get to the larger vessels, we go down the hybrid route. There are many projects in progress and being delivered.”

These include:

  • 5 electric ferries for Copenhagen
  • Hybrid electric tourist boats in Paris and other
  • Hybrid offshore crew transfer vessels

Pang went on to describe some of the projects incorporating wind such as Tharsis Sea River Shipping which plans to installing TwinFoil wind assist propulsion for a ship running between Duisburg and Goole and a 7,000 car car carrier, powered mostly by wind to be delivered next 2024.

He concluded that ports and operators needed to think about the safety aspects of new technology and alternative fuels, such as training firefighters and preparing spill response for alternative fuels.

2000 years of green transport

Following his announcement of the PLA’s net zero target, the PLA’s head of planning and environment James Trimmer emphasised the Thames’ great potential in providing green transport. He described how a 1000-tonne barge can replace 100 lorry journeys and that it has half the emissions of road freight.

While the advantage of river transport for bulk has been long recognised, there is a growing recognition that light freight can be effectively transported by river.

“The river flows from the major international gateway ports in the east right into the largest conurbation and market within the UK and one of the largest in Europe,” he said.

“The opportunities that we have for the river in this low carbon approach in terms of light freight is something that there are trials underway now and others that we are aware of. This is the potential we see that the river can be used for this increased purchases and last mile deliveries.”

James later elaborated on last mile deliveries during the question and answer session, describing how recent increases in internet spending could combine with the desire for green deliveries to create an impetus to use the river for distribution.

“How we can tap that with the infrastructure we have got—to have rapid yet sustainable delivery is a great opportunity for logistics in the city. We know, and the river has been doing it for 2000 years, how to move stuff up and down the river with the tide extremely sustainably for bulk cargoes,” he said.

The City of London Corporation’s decision to move its produce markets to a riverside site in Barking presented a great opportunity for moving light freight in the future, he said.

Robin Mortimer, the PLA’s chief executive concluded the webinar

“We thought really hard about the timing of this and we are really aware of the difficult economic point, the day we go in to lockdown, a lot of Thames businesses are facing severe financial stress and so was now the right time and we decided to go ahead for two reasons.

There is no time to delay. Some of the investment decision if we are going to achieve net zero by 2050 or 2040 the PLA ambition must be made now, so we need to get on with it.

The second reason is because, we must see the recovery from this current economic downturn as a period of opportunity to do things differently and to look for opportunities for growth in more sustainable technologies and sustainable ways of doing things.

For both these reasons, we thought it was worth going ahead and I hope you all found it useful.

I’m going to pick up a couple of themes. The first is, a couple of people have spoken about coalition and partnership. Hopefully, here on the Thames we can hopefully be in the vanguard, in some areas we might be early adopters, in some areas we might be fast followers, but we are not acting alone. In the presentation from Edwin, which painted that global picture is important, so we are learning from elsewhere in the world and being part of a global solution and not seeing ourselves as doing something on our own.

The second point is cost. This is critical. None of this is going to happen unless we can find ways to make it cost effective along with business operations.

I do think public finance is going to have a role to play here so we need to be lobbying for public funding from the big sources like central government and the London authorities but they are going to be massively stretched for the next few years.

We need to find some innovative financing options and we can’t duck that because nothing is going to happen without the money and related to that is the need to look at things like incentives. The launch of things like our Thames Green Scheme will provide some data and we need to look to see if we can develop an intelligent incentive scheme off the back of something like that to try and encourage a step change towards moving towards new technologies.

And the final theme is around timing. There’s obviously a massive urgency and we can’t delay. It came out very much in some discussion around the road map. We need to be thinking about no regrets investment decisions. We know that not all the technologies are clear yet as to what is the ultimate solution. Things like biofuels can be an interim solution for some operators as the PLA is choosing to go down that route but we don’t know if the ultimate decision for every vessel is going to be hydrogen or ammonia so we need to be thinking about no regret investment decisions so we are not locked into technologies which prove to be the wrong ones."

Webinar Agenda

10:00AM Welcome and introductions – Dr Tim Moonen, The Business of Cities

10:05AM Global developments update – Edwin Pang, Consulting Naval Architect and Chair of the RINA IMO Committee

10:15AM Charting the path for cleaner inland shipping on the Thames – Chester Lewis, E4 Tech

10:25AM Thames developments

  • Cleaner diesel – Dr Paul Hellier, mechanical engineering deputy programme director, lecturer in engines and fuels, and EPSRC research fellow, UCL
  • Future options: electric and hydrogen – James Trimmer, PLA

10:50AM Launch of the Green Inland Vessels Scheme – Tanya Ferry, PLA

11:00AM Q&A session

11:20AM Emerging themes and conclusions

11:25AM Event close – Dr Tim Moonen, UCL



Dr Tim Moonen

Dr Tim Moonen is Co-Founder of The Business of Cities, a London-based urban intelligence firm working with more than 50 city governments, businesses and institutions worldwide each year. Tim leads advisory projects evaluating how cities perform and their long-term capacity to succeed, working for more than a decade with organisations such as the Brookings Institution, OECD, World Bank, WTTC, JLL and the Urban Land Institute. He has participated in multiple senior advisory boards informing the long-term strategic planning of city rivers, waterfronts and coastal assets (including in New York, Moscow, Oslo, Rotterdam, London and Brisbane), and guiding the urban market strategies of global businesses and investors. Tim also teaches executive-level education for international companies and universities. He is an Honorary Lecturer at STEaPP, University College London and the co-author of the book World Cities and Nation States.


Tanya Ferry

Tanya Ferry is the Head of Environment in the Planning and Environment Department at the Port of London Authority and advises on the coordination and implementation of the PLA’s environmental work, statutory protection and improvements throughout the tidal River Thames. She has worked at the Port of London for nine years and has worked on the Thames in previous Environment Agency roles. Tanya is working to promote sustainable port operation, to improve stakeholders understanding of the contributions to the environment by the port industry and environmental considerations of the Thames estuary. Tanya works within environmental management with a particular focus on the water environment and air quality. Her roles have involved interpreting a wide range of regulatory compliance for a wide range of activities and sources, working with charities and local groups to improve the river and increase working partnerships with commerce.

Dr Paul Hellier

Dr Paul Hellier is an Associate Professor at UCL Mechanical Engineering whose research focuses on the development of sustainable future fuels for transport. He has published over 40 papers in leading international journals on topics ranging from extraction of oils from waste coffee grounds, combustion characteristics of designer fuels from genetically modified micro-organisms, through to investigating the toxicity and danger to human health of species carried by particulate emissions from current and future fuels. Paul regularly collaborates with industry and led the fuels component of the recent EPSRC funded 'Ultra efficient engines and fuels' project.

Chester Lewis

Chester Lewis is an experienced consultant with expertise in the hydrogen, low-carbon fuels and low-carbon transport sectors. He has led E4tech’s work advising the maritime sector on low-emission vessels, transferring E4tech’s broader experience in biofuels, hydrogen and other low/zero emission fuels and technologies to address the specific challenges of this sector. As well as the roadmap for the tidal Thames, commissioned by the PLA, other examples of his work include supporting the UK Department for Transport in developing the Clean Maritime Plan and an investigation into decarbonisation options for the Dutch ocean-going and inland shipping fleets (focusing on the use of biofuels).

Edwin Pang

Edwin Pang is a naval architect with around 20 years experience in consulting, specialising in general ship design, stability, fire safety, and environmental issues, but also carrying out surveys onboard and working in shipyards. He has been involved at the IMO since 2001 as part of the UK delegation and latterly the Danish delegation and currently chairs the IMO Committee of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. He has also been involved in EU research projects on alternative design for fire safety, damage stability. He has worked on regulatory matters with INTERFERRY, INTERTANKO, ICS covering topics such as EEDI, minimum powering of ships and damage stability.

James Trimmer

James Trimmer is the Director of Planning and Environment for the Port of London Authority and is responsible for the initiation and implementation of the PLA’s approach to strategic planning, infrastructure, transport and environmental issues throughout the tidal River Thames and its riparian hinterland. He is also responsible for the Authority’s statutory consenting of river works and dredging under of the Port of London Act 1968 and furthermore is the Project Director for the Authority’s statutory role on the Thames Tideway Tunnel and Tilbury 2 schemes.