Click here for video from the seminar.
Every seat was taken and it was about 70 people, from scientists to politicians, who attended the seminar "Water in the city - barrier or growth?". The purpose of the seminar was to discuss the opportunities, driving forces, barriers and opportunities for urban shipping. Jim Sandkvist who is senior advisor at SSPA believe that there are many signs of the urban shipping potential. Daily transport of water could reduce pressure on land-based traffic, and in a city that is expanding, urban shipping can play a major role in everything from transporting people to the delivery of construction materials and waste.
-If urban shipping with passenger traffic and extensive daily distribution of goods would have been economically viable, then it would already be available. But it’s not. Therefore, we must analyse and focus on other aspects of urban shipping, such as environmental benefits, public economy and public welfare, Jim Sandkvist says.
Environmental impact of shipping is a concern
Leif Magnusson is a strategist at Region Västra Götaland who runs the region's public transport company Västtrafik. According to him, shipping is just one (1) percent of Västtrafiks passenger transports. At the same time shipping constitute for six percent of Västtrafiks energy consumption, 15 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), 23 percent of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 54 percent of particle pollution (PM). Part of the explanation for the numbers is due to Västtrafik extensive use of electric traffic by land.
But shipping’s high energy consumption and high environmental impact is a concern for the Region of Västra Götaland and the goal that at least 95 percent of public transport should be made with renewable energy in 2025. There is ongoing work in the region to look at ways to improve vessel traffic. For example, through a feasibility study on the use of biogas and / or electricity in ferry traffic, if it is possible to increase the amount of electric power on Älvskyttlarna that traffics the river of Götra Älv in Gothenburg or if the Marstrand ferry could run on electricity. Even HVO, renewable diesel, in diesel engines is investigated.
- If you can you create shortcuts in the city with help of waterways and reduce the cost of infrastructure and land transport, then I think there is an opening to link the city with help of urban shipping, Leif Magnusson says.
One problem with new technology and innovation is that companies like Västtrafik, whose first responsibility is to ensure that the technology works and the reliability is high, have it hard to try out new technology.
- We have learned, not least on the bus side, that development and innovation is difficult to do in a procurement situation. We need to find other ways to show and demonstrate new technologies that go beyond normal procurement channels, Leif Magnusson says.
Karl Garme, researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology believes that the figures from Region Västra Götaland about the environmental impact are based on old shipping technology and that there’s a need for modern and lighter vessels. If modern waterborne traffic would be fully integrated with the infrastructure system, there would be several advantages to urban shipping in a city. The waterways can relieve the infrastructure by land, increase transport capacity, increase the reliability of the infrastructure system, reduce environmental impact and help bike commuting and bicycle business.
- In city and public transport planning there is a risk that we don’t consider waterborne traffic, Karl Garme says.
Wants to take ferry passengers directly to the final destination
According to Anders Werner, shipping manager for Färjerederiet who operates Swedens road ferries, there’s an increasing demand for waterborne public transport. But the road network by land is not able to meet up with the demands from the road ferries.
- We have four ferries that go all day between Öckerö and Lilla Varholmen. Our passengers want more departures but there is no place to drop off the cars, the roads are full and those who live close to the ferry terminal are irritated because of congested roads, Anders Werner says.
His hope is not primarily to deposit more car ferries between Öckerö and Lilla Varholmen but to run the passengers straight to their final destination. For example, directly into town.
- Everyone wants a thriving archipelago but how can we have a thriving archipelago if we can’t get there, Anders Werner says.
Anders Werner also tells us that Färjerederiet is trying to reduce its energy consumption and environmental impact. For example, through electrification, both by using batteries and by running electricity through cable from shore. But there’s also environmental benefits to be gained by trying to change how the captain handles the vessel. According to Färjerederiets own studies there’s up to 50 percent difference in fuel consumption between different captains and Färjerederiet have built a special simulator in Vaxholm to train their crews in ecoship driving.
Dreaming of urban passenger ferry on methanol
Emissions and environmental impacts is a challenge for all modes of transport and a challenge to become fossil-free is to not let the energy consumption grow despite increasing growth, says Bengt Ramne who is a Professor of the Practice at Chalmers University of Technology / Scandinaos.
-A dream project is to rebuild a passenger ferry (Älvsnabben) to methanol operation. Methanol can be produced in large volumes as a fossil-free fuel, you avoid sulphur emissions and particles and what is left catalysts can take care of, Bengt Ramne says.
As for the electrification of shipping there are many advantages for limited distances, a good example is the electrical cable-driven ferry in Hamburgsund. But there are also some special challenges for shipping when it comes to electric operation. Shipping has a need of major energy stocks, fewer opportunities to recharge and the extra weight from the batteries provide a greater resistance in the sea than on land.
But the biggest problem right now, according to Bengt Ramne, is that low oil prices keep the commercial sector’s interest for alternative fuels to a minimum.
Watch and learn from a shopping centre
Regardless of the potential at sea it becomes increasingly crowded on land. More and more people gather around the cities and the competition for street space increases. The research project DenCity is looking into solutions and services that can reduce congestion, reduce environmental impact and increase the quality of life for those who reside in dense urban areas.
–We must dare to be innovative in the future, we need many different types of solutions, it is not just a boat, one size fits all, Martin Svanberg says.
Priority on electrification in Norway
You don’t need to go far to find good examples of how you can work with urban shipping. Norway has a green coastal shipping program that says that Norway should have the world's most efficient and environmentally friendly coastal shipping.
-In Norway they have succeeded to get a broad support for the coastal shipping program. There’s a mutual platform and focus on pilot projects, Mikael Johansson from DNV GL, one of the seminar's speakers, says.
The conclusion was that, if a third of the coastal shipping fleet in Norway would be more environmentally friendly, emissions would be cut by 40 percent. For example, by alternative fuels.
- The green coastal shipping program in Norway focuses on electrification. Electrification is a reality today and that’s where they put their effort. They have been working with gas, with methanol and other biofuels, to find solutions for the electrification and completely remove CO2 emissions, Mikael Johansson says.
Gothenburg slow in approaching the water
The seminar "Water in the city - barrier or growth?" took place in Gothenburg. A city that despite its proximity to the water has not taken advantage of the water's potential, according to the city architect of Gothenburg, Björn Siesjö.
–We have built the wrong city for a number of years. We have created a vision of a river city where one of the targets was to approach the water, but we have been slow compared to other cities, Björn Siesjö says.
- It is a demonstration and development project that is in addition to the usual public transportation system. It's pretty low risks of such a project as it supplements the network we already have. I think this can be a good way to go, but it costs a lot of money to start that kind of project, and that’s something the politicians must prioritize. Where should the funds be invested?, Leif Magnusson says.
A lot about to happen
Technological development and demonstration projects are costly but Niklas Arvidsson, who is a researcher at the School of Business, Economics and Law at Gothenburg University believes that there will be good opportunities to find various sustainable transport solutions from an urban perspective in the future. The reason is the European Commission White Paper on transport.
- White papers are strategically important in order to conduct research and bring community development forward, and the White Paper on transport basically says that in year of 2030, all city centres in Europe's major cities should have zero emissions for freight transports. There, certain types of vehicles and vessels on the water can be a part of the solution. It will happen a lot in the next five to ten years, says Niklas Arvidsson.
Text and photos: Andreas Kron