The current GHG emissions profile of the inland waterway sector is low compared to other freight modes. The American Waterways Operators cites statistics that show that one dry cargo barge can carry the same amount of cargo as 16 rail cars or 70 trucks and that barge transportation produces 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than rail and more than 1,000% less than trucks.
Still, that does not mean that decarbonization is an issue that the industry can afford to ignore, and ABS and Vanderbilt University have just published a landmark report analyzing decarbonization strategies for U.S. inland waterways.
Called “Decarbonization of the Inland Waterway Sector in the United States,” the report evaluates the potential for possible future propulsion technologies and alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions. The report also demonstrates the feasibility of near-term electrification of smaller vessels operating on the inland river system with a case study and renderings of a weighted and balanced boat retrofitted with electrical propulsion.
“We are proud to be at the forefront of decarbonization efforts globally as well as regionally in the U.S. This collaborative study with one of the country’s leading universities evaluates the fuel and technology options and approaches that will help drive decarbonization of the U.S. inland waterways and support a safer and more sustainable fleet,” said Christopher Wiernicki, ABS Chairman, president and CEO.
“While the GHG profile of the inland waterways is low compared to other shipping sectors the need to decarbonize operations is growing more pressing all the time. The sector faces unique challenges and limitations and will require a bespoke emissions approach, which is analyzed in this study with Vanderbilt University. While electrification clearly offers smaller inland river vessels swift CO2 gains, the report also explores the wider decarbonization landscape that will need to be navigated to put this sector on a sustainable footing,” said Georgios Plevrakis, ABS Director Global Sustainability.
At Vanderbilt, the work was a collaboration between the Vanderbilt Center for Transportation and Operational Resiliency and the Vanderbilt Climate Change Initiative (VCCI).
“We are excited about some of the possibilities and pathways identified in this report. For example, we are hopeful that a pilot project based on river fleet boat electrification can be accomplished in the near term, which would inform scalability potential and cost, as well as further research needs,” said VCCI Director Leah Dundon. “These types of grand challenges can’t be undertaken alone—they require input and insight from a broad range of skill sets and expertise, so Vanderbilt was extremely pleased to collaborate with ABS on this project.”
Download a copy of the report here and register here to join ABS and Vanderbilt University for a webinar on September 23 covering the topics of this report.