North Sea Port, the Flemish government and the Port of Antwerp will collaborate to accelerate digitisation in inland shipping, in part by providing subsidies to barge operators.
In a statement, North Sea Port said the parties want to encourage operators to invest in push bar trackers and will reimburse part of the cost to do so.
Push barge owners or companies can apply for a reimbursement of up to 50% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of $224 (€200), if they can demonstrate that they have called at North Sea Port or the Port of Antwerp at least three times in the three years prior to making the application.
The purchase and installation of the push barge tracker must also have taken place between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020.
The inland shipping sector is a sustainable mode of transport for cargo. Due to AIS (Automatic Identification System), pusher boats and inland navigation vessels are easily traceable in the port and on waterways.
However, push barges often do not have their own power supplies and therefore no AIS to locate them. Thanks to the introduction of battery or solar-powered GPS trackers, port authorities, owners, operators and shipping companies will in future always know where each push barge or push barge convoy is located.
If North Sea Port and Port of Antwerp have digital data at their disposal, they can also share them. At the moment, the composition of the convoys as notified to the port authorities is not always up to date. Consequently, valuable time is lost at the locks. The trackers only provide accurate information. This contributes to more reliable lock planning.
Additionally, tracking also improves safety in the ports, because the port authorities always know which barge or convoy is where. This allows them to intervene more quickly in the event of problems.
The push barge trackers are not yet mandatory, but North Sea Port and the Port of Antwerp are nevertheless encouraging push barge operators to invest, particularly with a view to mandatory digitisation. The Flemish Government is therefore prepared to provide financial support.