photo of boat

What sustainability means for inland navigation vessels

May. 10 2021 - 5 min

Improving sustainability is a priority for the marine world. But how does environmental progress play out for one of the industry’s least uniformly regulated segments?

Both seagoing and inland vessels are facing a changing environmental landscape, with growing calls to minimize their environmental impact and limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a particular concern for inland navigation vessels (INV), as they operate in populated areas and are highly visible to an increasingly climate-conscious public.

However, unlike seagoing vessels, INV outside of Europe[1] are not subject to the environmental regulations developed and enforced by the International Maritime Organization. Most of these ships are also not required to undergo classification[2], exempting them from the recommendations of the International Association of Classification Societies. This means that sustainability for INV is largely managed on a country-by-country basis, and subject to a complex web of local, national and international regulations.

Understanding the regulatory landscape

Europe is the most regulated geographical area for INV, primarily managed by three regulatory bodies that work both independently and collaboratively. These are the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Union and the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine. Outside of Europe, the United States, China, India and Brazil have comprehensive regulations in place for INV. Several other nations also have partial regulatory requirements.

Sustainability for inland vessels

INV have a head start on seagoing vessels for reducing certain emissions, including SOx and NOx, which have been heavily regulated for years. In terms of sustainable fuels and technologies, these ships can turn to LNG as fuel, and are increasingly choosing electric-hybrid propulsion as a source of green power. Ship owners in South America, Europe and North America have already developed battery-powered vessels, and are ordering more.

Nonetheless, progress toward other alternative solutions is limited, as all new technologies are subject to CESNI’s[3] approval and authorization. For ship owners looking to use carbon-free fuels like ammonia or hydrogen, vessel plans must be submitted and approved. This process can take about two years, requiring owners to make decisions four to five years in advance of vessel delivery.

Where Bureau Veritas comes in

As the experienced and trusted classification partner for the INV segment, Bureau Veritas is there to help ship owners navigate the challenges of developing more sustainable vessels and identify a pathway to compliance. Our experts work hand-in-hand with shipyards, equipment manufacturers, designers, and regulators to develop classification rules covering new technologies, alternative fuels and propulsion solutions.

We have a proven approach to and rules for LNG-fueled vessels, including notations for Gas-Prepared ships, as well as rules and three notations for battery-powered vessels. Bureau Veritas is also developing a framework for the new, zero-carbon fuels that will help the shipping industry achieve net-zero emissions. We recently issued our Ammonia-Prepared class notation, and will shortly release new rules for the use of ammonia as fuel. Looking forward, we will next be developing rules for methanol and hydrogen.

Bureau Veritas provides the insight and expertise needed to develop the right framework for INV owners to identify sustainable approaches today, while keeping their options open for tomorrow.

Specifically, we enable INV owners to prepare for the use of zero-carbon fuels while awaiting CESNI authorization.

[1] European regulations include EU 2016/1628 for requirements relating to gaseous and particulate pollutant emissions and type-approval for internal combustion engines for non-road mobile machinery

[2] Excepting classification rules for the transportation of dangerous goods, as determined by the ADN (European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways) adopted by EU Directive 2008/68/EC

[3] Comité Européen pour l’Élaboration de Standards dans le Domaine de la Navigation Intérieure