The Blue World – Sustainable Inland Ships

Context of Transport Climate Action

It is expected that more and more goods will be transported by containers, and inland shipping will need to become a more important and sustainable partner in supply chains and to the hinterland connections of ports. The challenge for the inland shipping sector is to develop as a reliable logistic provider and with clean and sustainable ships. Now the inland shipping sector in Europe has many ships with old engines. Inland ship engines often have long life spans but that means they are emitting relatively high levels of air pollutants.

The ‘Blue World’ is changing the mindset for the inland shipping sector and of cargo-owners by developing and investing new clean hybrid ships. By refitting in-use ships with conventional diesel engines to hybrid ships with a diesel-electric power generation and propulsion system, these vessels become more fuel efficient. The ‘Blue World’ also looks into special adjustments of ships so they can carry more volume-loads of containers. Together with logistic chain partners dedicated ‘green’ lanes from port to hinterland are created for a reliable and sustainable flow of goods.

The first ship in the ‘Blue World’, the Borelli, operates between the Port of Rotterdam and the eastern part of the Netherlands (Twente). The Borelli is about to be refitted to a hybrid ship and she will realise at least an 18% reduction of CO2 emissions. A second new ship will be developed, TwenteMax, with a higher level of hybridisation and an even lower fuel consumption. Both ships are specially designed to become a dedicated ship in a ‘green’ lane for good flows of the port with the hinterland.


The ship called ‘Borelli’ was newly built in 2009 with dimensions and measures 110 meters in length and 11.45 meters in width. She has a maximum capacity of 3,228 ton, which is equivalent to 208 TEU. Her mother company The Blue World has been investing how to reduce the CO2 footprint of this vessel and has made some large changes to the vessel. She is now equipped with solar cells on the wheel-house roof top and has a battery pack to store electric energy. A generator with a PM magnet crank replaced one of the two diesel generators and she has sensor controlled LED lighting. Because of her smart design and all these measures, her capacity can be limited to 400 Kwh. This is far less than a conventional setup of about 1250 Kwh.

In 2016 the next step will be taken to reduce the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by a refit to a hybrid configuration. After this refit the vessel will be powered by one electric engine combined with one or two generators depending on the energy demand. With this hybrid setup, the ship will have a reduced fuel consumption by approximately 18%.

The refit will be set up in the following configuration:

  • Two generators consisting of a Volvo D13 engine combined with a Visedo permanent magnet E-engine will power the DC bus.
  • Both Volvo D13 engines will get an Emigreen after treatment system to obtain the emission standard Euro 5/6.
  • The current diesel engine of the bow thruster will be replaced by an E-engine as well.
  • On the aft ship an electric propulsion engine will be placed in the existing powertrain at the backend of the gearbox.
  • The power demand and offer can be balanced using the battery pack (peak-shaving).
  • Due to this battery pack the barge has zero emission during loading/unloading at harbours. And could even in the future be an energy supplier for premises at land.

This project will be carried out as pilot in the inland shipping sector. The experiences and lessons learned will be shared and applied in the development of a new ship named TwenteMax that is specifically designed for the route between the Port of Rotterdam and Twenteport

in the Netherlands and will also be using a PM/DC parallel hybrid system. Furthermore the executing partners of this project will make their learnings available for the sector.


The refit of the Borelli will be executed in collaboration with the following partners:

  • Koedood, a company specialized in the power generation of inland vessels will be responsible for delivering and installing the new propulsion system including generators the after treatment system.
  • eL-Tec will be responsible for the electrical installation and will deliver the electric engines, switchboards, controllers and other components.

The challenging part about this project is that it is the first time that this PM/DC parallel hybrid technique will be used in an inland barge. Other hybrid vessels are with alternating current.

The ship will be part of the realisation of a dedicated ‘green’ lane with clean and sustainable ship in the supply chains of cargo-owners, and logistic chain from Port of Rotterdam to eastern part in The Netherlands with the inland terminal Combi Terminal Twente and logistic service provider Bolk Transport.


  • Reduced fuel consumption by approximately 18%, resulting in lower CO2 emissions and air pollutants
  • The insights gained from this project will be used in the creation of the new vessel TwenteMax, and will be made available for the entire inland shipping and logistics sector
  • Using hybrid barges will make the inland shipping sector more sustainable, and can become a reliable added value in sustainable supply chains of shippers.
  • Developing dedicated ‘green’ lanes by barge for sustainable supply chains of cargo-owners with sustainable and effective logistic chains.

Potential for scaling up

The inland shipping sector has a potential with an existing fleet to become more clean and sustainable by refitting to realize lower fuel consumption and Co2 reduction of at least 20%. And to develop new inland ships to be more dedicated for the growing demand by shippers to realize more sustainable supply chains.

By developing dedicated ‘green’ lanes from port to hinterland with new or refitted ships with clean techniques with a green energy flow by the ships and with the landside.

These showcases are to set an example in Europe for inland shipping to become a reliable and sustainable partner in the supply chains of shippers, and to be a partner of dedicated low carbon logistic chains between ports and hinterland.

Selected references

Movie of the concept: creating sustainable added value with inland shipping









Europe, MitigationShipping, Technology, Partnerships, Awareness


The Blue World


Patrick Hut

“We believe that renewed hybrid propulsion barge can become an economic and sustainable added value in the green supply chains of the future in Europe”.

Patrick Hut & Tonnie Speksnijder – managing directors, The Blue World