LL4 – Autonomous Barge

Resilience Promoting Autonomous Zero-Emissions Barges

One of ReNEW’s key pillars is that a fleet of smaller and increasingly automated vessels will inherently increase the resilience of the overall infrastructure.

This living lab proposes to use an autonomous CEMT class 4 barge (the X-barge) to demonstrate and test the improved resilience of the IWT infrastructure. It will use a disruptive barge concept, combining digitisation, alternative propulsion, and autonomy.

In combination with LL1, this LL4 will complement automation to longer international routes and different, larger-size logistics.

Belgium, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Rhine region
Corridor / Area
Belgium, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Rhine region
10+ Infrastructure Managers
10+ Ports
10+ Shippers


The new barge will be used to test its physical effects on the waterways, actual energy use vs larger vessels, the provisions of the required infrastructure and prove its economic competitiveness on waterways from Ghent (Belgium) to Duisburg (Germany), passing through the Netherlands.

Specifically, the proposed transit is from Gent to Antwerpen to Alblasserdam to Nijmegen to Duisburg. This means passing through waterways managed and controlled by 3 countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

News from Living Lab 4

March 2024

In the past six months the ReNEW partner and Living Lab 4 leader – Zulu Associates has been actively preparing to provide the X-barge, an autonomous low to zero emission dry bulk/container inland barge in order to respond to the demand for new inland vessels to replace the existing fleet of traditional barges (see animation below).

On the one hand, negotiations and discussions have been initiated with the relevant authorities such as De Vlaamse Waterweg, de Rijkswaterstaat and the CCNR. The port stakeholders including North Sea Ports and Port of Duisburg have also been added in the loop of consultations.

On the other hand, the design of the X barge is almost complete and final discussions are underway with the providers of the on-board systems. Shipyards have been contacted and they will be requested to provide quotes for the construction which is coming up in the next phase.

As for the design of the hull, a lot of attention has been given to the energy efficiency operation in both normal and constrained waters, and the  test calculations using CFD have already been done. The next phase will involve tow tank tests with a model of the vessel.


September 2023

In the recent period, Living Lab 4 has progressed further and several outcomes have been achieved. The design of the X barge has advanced and the construction plans are in full development. Starting from the Grant Agreement plans, actual steel parts design needs to be done and the practical workings of the technical parts need to be finalised so that the shipyard has a full set of plans with a list of materials. This is developed in a loop process, which is now underway.

The Flanders Hydraulics Institute has been contracted to execute the necessary analyses on the performance of the barge in constrained and shallow waters. This will give data that will be researched during the living lab.

All the potential stakeholders of the regulatory context have been identified and meetings are being planned in late 2023 to engage with these stakeholders for using the vessel in their respective zones. A common approach is being developed in order to achieve efficiency.

Negotiations and technical exchanges are underway with the two potential providers of batteries along the proposed route. This entails determining the sites, the necessary infrastructure for loading/unloading and the specifications of the batteries. Negotiations with Danser as the time charterer of the X barge are in the final stages and appropriate time charter contracts are in final redaction.

Partners involved

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