Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the Ports and the City conference, Nijmegen

“Inland shipping must beware of losing the competitive advantage of lower carbon emissions. I see great examples of innovation. But progress is coming too slowly. And it’s up to us to do something about that.”

Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the Ports and the City Conference in Nijmegen, 12 April 2018.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the next 15 years the population of our country will grow by 650,000. And three quarters of them will live in cities. More and more people will live close to ports and waterways. Especially in a country like this one, where the water is never far away.

Walking along the Waal here in Nijmegen, you can see all the ways in which water is important:
•    The economic role of our waterways, as a vital transport link.
•    The fantastic ‘Room for the River’ project, which protects the area from flooding
•    The beauty of living on the waterfront
•    The fun of water recreation

Did you know that, every year, about 150 million tonnes of goods pass Nijmegen on the way to Germany? And we want to see that figure go up. We aim to increase the volume of inland shipping to relieve the pressure on our roads and reduce carbon emissions.
But if you walk along the Waal, you’ll also see that the waterway goes right through town. Nijmegen also has one of our country’s largest inland ports. It’s just around the corner from here. All in all, the shipping emissions within the city equal the emissions of road traffic. The local authorities recently installed sensors along the waterfront to measure these emissions.

What’s more, Nijmegen recently became the first Dutch city to win the European Green Capital Award. I’ve already congratulated mayor Bruls. It’s a title to be proud of. And to live up to!
Obviously, there’s also the global challenge of climate change. Since the Paris agreement in 2015, the world’s been working hard on this problem. Inland shipping can’t lag behind.
The good news is: the sector has a head start. At the moment, the carbon emissions from shipping one tonne of freight over inland waterways are two to twelve times lower than transporting the same freight by road.
But there’s bad news as well. Inland shipping lags behind road transport when it comes to innovation and sustainability. A ship gets about 40 years of use. Lorries are written off in only six or seven years. Also, the inland shipping sector is made up of small businesses, for whom every euro counts.
So the reasons for lagging behind are obvious. But inland shipping must beware of losing the competitive advantage of lower carbon emissions.

There are no easy answers, but I see you’re all aware that things need to change. There are examples where diesel will be used to generate electricity. Designed to switch easily to other fuels. Fit for the future!
Great examples... But progress is coming too slowly. And it’s up to us to do something about that.

So I’m glad that so many of you will join me in signing the Declaration of Nijmegen. I see the Declaration as a promising milestone on the way to that goal. It establishes cross-border cooperation between governments and ports. The Netherlands cannot do this alone.  After all, we wouldn’t gain much by turning one kilometre of the Waal at Nijmegen into a restricted emission zone.

This year the Dutch government will also sign a new Climate and Energy Agreement with a wide range of stakeholders. Inland shipping will have a say in the talks on the transport sector’s contribution.
We’re also negotiating a ‘Green Deal’ on maritime and inland shipping and ports. This will lay down our shared commitments and ambitions on sustainability. We expect to be able to sign it at the end of the year.
And what are our ambitions, you may ask. For our part, we are aiming for inland shipping to be near-zero emissions and climate-neutral by 2050. The other countries in the Commission for the Navigation on the Rhine share this ambition.
You may know that this year is the 150th anniversary of the Mannheim Act, which regulates shipping on the Rhine. It’s a treaty that’s brought Europe great prosperity. A treaty that has stood firm, even at times of war. On the 17th of October, exactly 150 years after the treaty was signed, the same group of countries hope to sign a new ministerial declaration aimed at modern, profitable and sustainable inland water transport. I’ll be one of those signing the agreement. And I hope all the other parties will join me.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we’re to achieve this ambition, we have a lot of work to do. First of all we’ll have to develop or refine new technologies. Biofuels can be part of the solution. But we’ll also have to use new technologies, like electric or hydrogen propulsion systems.
Another major issue is finance. Developing new financing models is a key part of the Green Deal. One promising model is the new Shipping Financing Tool, developed by the European Investment Bank. It’s mainly intended for maritime shipping, but I think it could be extended to inland shipping as well.
And of course, there’s infrastructure. New types of fuel demand new types of bunkering facilities. Ports and cities can help with this. Nijmegen has a strategic location. And the municipality is already working actively to develop a site. So that’s great!
Ports can also provide shore power, so that ships don’t have to use their generator when they’re in port. Which means less pollution and noise.

At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about: minimising climate impact and making sure waterfront areas are attractive places to live. So let’s find the right partners to connect with. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together on pilots and business cases. So that ports and cities are no longer separate worlds, but entities that collaborate, and strengthen each other.

I wish you success and inspiration – both here at this conference, and in your future endeavours.

Thank you.