Transport sector is a major contributor to air pollution, but not all means of transport are equally polluting. Considering the emissions and the volume of transported goods, shipping is greener than road or air transport. Therefore supporting environmental-friendly transport modes like inland shipping should be a priority for all of us.
However, even inland navigation emissions have to be kept to a minimum. Efforts are made in the countries along the Danube River, but people behind these endeavours need support to reach the ultimate goal of clean air.
They need information on how much the vessels navigating on the Danube actually pollute. They need to know what green technologies, infrastructure and policies exist now in order to decide what to do next, to find practical solutions adapted to the particular needs and keep their businesses going. They also need the public to be on their side in the long run.
So we worked on multiple fronts and came up with necessary info and a plan for greening the transport on the world’s most international river.
We created dedicated environmental information centres, assessed air quality along the river and the existing green technologies and consequently provided a strategy to green the Danube fleet.
But why would someone start advocating for inland shipping? We thought it was not enough to tell people that only one barge has the capacity of 58 truck trailers and barges are always part of convoys. Yes, this is quite convincing information, except that we had to know how much the engine pushing a convoy pollutes the air we all breathe. We realised that in order for the public to back up inland shipping, they need to be informed, to know the truth, to have the facts & figures. Science leading to relevant information was needed.
So we started by having a group of researchers measure air quality along the Danube. What did they do? They decided to carefully select 4 areas along the river where pollution coming from other sources than shipping was at a minimum and to collect data both during the day & at night in 3 different seasons, in a total of 7 measuring points, starting deep in the Danube Delta and ending at kilometre 2200 of the Danube close to the border between Germany and Austria.
During the field campaign our researchers travelled a total of over 13.000 kilometres, analysed data collected in hundreds of hours of recorded activity, dealt with high temperatures, strong wind, pouring rain and measuring equipment heavy enough that 4 men were necessary to move it.
Afterwards, data was analysed as well as environmental performance of inland vessels, existing green technologies and infrastructure. We scanned national & EU policies, envisaged a campaign to raise public awareness and finally shared information and validated solutions with stakeholders.
Tens of technologies and best practices were examined, hundreds of laws were reviewed and now collected information is in a free access database.
When did we see the impact of our work or even feel proud? Maybe when we launched the database and saw numbers of visitors growing every day or when children were playing the games created for them to understand shipping and environment can go together or maybe when, among the 800 people who attended the events organised during the project, we could see the Prime Minister of Serbia visiting our centre in National Park Djerdap.
We come from 7 Danubian countries and form a consortium of 10 organisations coordinated by the Romanian Maritime Training Centre and with GREEN DANUBE we strive for cleaner air for everyone.