Zero Emissions for Canal Cruise Boats by 2025

Context of Transport Climate Action

Several years ago, the municipality of Amsterdam implemented stringent emissions legislation for canal cruise boat and other ships sailing in the city of Amsterdam. The legislation requires all canal cruise boats to have zero emission by 2025. In Amsterdam there are currently around 120 large canal cruise boats and many smaller ships operating in the canals of Amsterdam.

The main driver for implementing the legislation is to improve the air quality in the inner city. The pollutant emissions are reduced to zero by using electric propulsion for powering the ships.

However, the overall reduction of Greenhouse Emissions is also considered to be an important goal. Amsterdam has a Climate Plan, which has the objective to reduce the energy consumption by 20% in 2020 and also to increase the use of more renewable energy by 20% in 2020. The electrification of canal cruise ships contributes significantly to these goals. GHG emission savings have been estimated to be around 70% compared to usage of diesel (including CO2 emissions from the production of electricity using the current energy mix).


The canal cruise companies are taking the subject very seriously and several of them have build the first fully electric ‘test’ canal boats to be used in normal service. They are equipped with an electric driveline and the hull has been adapted to fit the necessary battery capacity.

Both lead-acid as well as Li-ion batteries are used with a capacity of 200 to 250 kWh, which is about three times more than the capacity used in a Tesla sports car. The costs for conversion are about in the range of 175000-250,000 EURO per vessel, which is roughly 25% of total capital costs. Electric propulsion however does result in lower fuel costs for the vessel. The investment is calculated to be break-even after 12 years.

Full electric propulsion is already quite usual for smaller or less intensively used vessels, such as so called ‘diner boats’. The larger canal cruise boats, are normally equipped with diesel or gas engines, as they are sailing 10 to 14 hours per day. In these cases the battery capacity needs to be very large.


The number of large electric canal cruise boats and ships in Amsterdam is planned to increase from 8 in 2015 to over 40 in 2020 and further to 120 in 2025. During this period, the battery charging infrastructure needs to be build up as well. A roadmap has been made for this implementation. This roadmap calls for cooperation in development and know-how between the shipping companies, the integrated development of the charging infrastructure, safety and regulations.

Critical Success Factors are:

  • Reliability – the canal cruise boats are in service some 2500 hrs per year. Service disruptions due to technical problems or empty batteries, is not acceptable.

Battery costs and life-time – in the long run, it is expected that the battery costs can be paid from savings in fuel costs and the break-even point is estimated to be around 12 years. But this still needs to be confirmed.


  • 70% CO2 and GHG emission reduction (including production of electricity)
  • 100% pollutant emission reduction compared to normal diesel ships
  • Noise reduction improving passenger comfort
  • Improved image of city of Amsterdam

Potential for scaling up

  • In Amsterdam also the vessels for maintenance of the waterways and possibly the river ferries are planned to be converted to fully electric or hybrids. This will likely offer synergy advantages in the realisation of the battery charging infrastructure.
  • Electric propulsion can be applied to cruise and small passenger vessels in other cities in the Netherlands and Europe.
  • Electric propulsion is in general suitable for locally operated boats and ships, which can be charged on a daily basis. Apart from canal cruise boats, ferries, ships for public transportation and some port ships are suitable for electrification.

Selected references

Canal cruises Amsterdam general:

Legislation clean ships Amsterdam: Nota varen Amsterdam 2.1 (in Dutch):









Netherlands, Mitigation, Partnerships, Policy, Technology, Passenger


Municipality of Amsterdam Waternet VAR (Amsterdam shipping companies)


Mark Companjen, Ramon van der Storm,

“Making lightly loaded ships electric is not too difficult. We understand the strong political wish to also make the larger canal cruise ships fully electric, but this appears to be a real challenge due to their heavy daily sailing schedule”.
-Ramon van der Storm, Amsterdam Canal Cruises