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Wärtsilä swappable battery containers enabling inland waterway vessels to operate with zero emissions

Wärtsilä has developed and delivered a mobile battery container solution that will enable inland waterway vessels to operate with zero emissions. The first order, comprising three units, was placed by ZES (Zero Emission Services) BV, a Netherlands-based company founded in 2020 by ING Bank, energy and technical service provider Engie, the Port of Rotterdam, and Wärtsilä. The order was placed and two containers delivered in June 2021.

The energy containers—‘ZESpacks’—are standard 20-foot containers filled with 45 battery modules totaling 2 MWh and charged with green electricity.

The battery containers are installed on a 104 TEU inland waterway container vessel, which has been modified to allow two units to be mounted onboard. The system enables the vessel to operate on full electric power alone, with no carbon emissions being generated.

When discharged, the containers can be exchanged and charged onshore using energy from renewable sources. This replaceability is novel since battery containers have thus far been stationary installations.

Within the Dutch transport sector, inland navigation accounts for five percent of the CO2 emissions. By switching from diesel fueled to electric propulsion, an important step can be taken towards realizing the Paris Climate Agreement targets. Ships participating in the ZES service will eliminate around 1000 tonnes of CO2 and 7 tonnes of NOx per year.

—Willem Dedden, CEO of ZES

Wärtsilä is committed to supporting all efforts towards the decarbonization of shipping. This initiative is part of that commitment. We have leveraged our in-house know-how in maritime battery and hybrid systems, our shore power and remote connection capabilities, as well as our extensive experience in serving inland waterway applications for the development of this product.

—Torsten Büssow, Director, Electrical & Power Management System, Wärtsilä Marine Power

The Wärtsilä swappable battery container is fully equipped with safety systems, including an onboard fire protection skid. It is connected for remote monitoring. The operational and certification trials were carried out commencing in the end of August 2021.

The concept, which is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, is based on a network of open access charging points. Here, depleted battery containers can be exchanged for fully charged replacements. A pay-per-use model has been set-up whereby ZES charges only for the cost of consumed renewable energy. This allows the vessel’s operating costs to remain competitive.


This first vessel fitted with the Wärtsilä battery containers, the Alphenaar commenced operations along the Zoeterwoude – Alpherium – Moerdijk corridor in the Netherlands on 6 September 2021. The vessel transports beer for HEINEKEN, the first customer for the service.

ZES’s ambition is to scale up in the short term to eight vessels, eight loading stations and fourteen ZESpacks. The company aims to realize 30 zero-emission shipping routes by 2030.



Perhaps a reasonable solution on inland waterways, where the battery drain can be more precisely calculated than at sea and swapping stations built.

Those two containers worth of batteries are going to hit payload though.


The 2 20ft containers are less than 3% of the capacity as it appears that the vessel will carry 36 40 ft containers. I am guessing that the economics are good with the decreased fuel, maintenance, and manpower and that is what really matters.





Sounds of a good idea to me

Jakob Sperling

Very good development for the future of hydrogen. With five 200 kW fuel cells and a couple of hydrogen tanks, you can easily store multiple amounts of energy in such a container. The whole thing will be easier anyway.

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