Ladies and gentlemen,
I’d like to start by thanking Ms Brenninkmeijer, Mr Lenten, Mr Koenig and Mr Galjee for their warm reception on the Nieuwe Maze!
It’s a pleasure to be here today.
As a former member of the municipal executive with responsibility for the port and as a resident of Rotterdam, this is literally my home port.
And I’m delighted to be here on this festive day.
We’re marking the start of construction on the first Dutch newbuild hydrogen-powered electric inland cargo ship.
Yes, it’s really happening!
We’re starting the next leg of the journey towards zero-emission inland shipping – towards a green future with potentially large-scale use of hydrogen.
And that’s good news for the sector, good news for our climate goals and good news for the Netherlands.
You and I know that we’ve got to change course.
If we want to achieve the ambitious climate targets in the Paris Agreement and in our National Climate Agreement, then we need to take action.
Not tomorrow, but today.
Every sector will have to contribute to reducing emissions.
And that includes inland shipping.
And we see that Dutch inland shipping is shouldering its responsibility.
We can see proof of that today, with the start of construction of the Antonie.
And we’ll see more proof tomorrow, when I award the one-thousandth Green Award certificate to an inland vessel.
Dutch inland shipping enjoys a strong position in climate-friendly transport.
But that’s no reason to relax our efforts.
Other modes of transport, including road transport, are also becoming greener.
So inland shipping will have to further increase its sustainability to stay in the lead.
And that’s why it’s aiming for zero-emissions shipping in the near future.
By using cleaner, more efficient fuels.
And by developing and using electric and hydrogen propulsion technologies.
There are no quick fixes.
We’ll have to pull out all the stops to achieve our goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In 2019 companies, trade associations, banks, research organisations and public authorities joined forces in the Green Deal on Maritime and Inland Shipping and Ports.
The common goal is to increase sustainability.
One of the goals is to fit 150 inland cargo vessels with a zero-emission power train by 2030.
And to achieve zero emissions across the board by 2050.
That seems like the distant future, but it isn’t!
If your goal is a sustainable fleet, you’ll have to invest in green innovation over the next few years.
I realise what an enormous challenge this is, especially in these uncertain times.
But for a sector of doers and hard workers, these are realistic ambitions.
Besides alternative fuels and electric propulsion, hydrogen is also very promising.
In the FELMAR and WEVA projects, the sector is working on hydrogen propulsion technology for shipping.
Of course, the government is supporting these developments.
For example, with an initial grant of four million euros for the construction of the Antonie.
It’s inspiring to see how all the partners are supporting the construction: the shippers, the H2 producer and supplier, the logistics services provider and the carrier.
Together you have formed a consortium, uniting Dutch shipbuilding and hydrogen technology in a single project.
A project that is now moving from paper to practice, from drawing board to shipyard.
And then to the water!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Once the Antonie is finished and begins shipping salt from Delfzijl to Rotterdam, you will rapidly gain practical experience.
And get a better idea of whether we can safely use hydrogen as an energy carrier on a larger scale in inland shipping.
If so, we will have an interesting export product to show for our efforts.
Of course, this is just the start. But every journey begins with the first step.
Much will depend on the practical experience we gain with the Antonie.
How the new hydrogen vessel performs is important, but so is refuelling.
Major investments are needed to build hydrogen infrastructure and ensure hydrogen is available at inland ports.
The stakeholders here today will have to seek out smart and efficient solutions for larger-scale hydrogen applications in the future.
No doubt, that will involve trial and error.
But if I know you – and I do – you can make this happen.
What’s more, the expertise and experience that the Netherlands already has as a ‘hydrogen heaven’ gives me the confidence that we can do this.
I’d like to conclude by congratulating everyone involved.
You are trailblazers who dare to stick your necks out for sustainability.
And you have every reason to take pride in that.
I wish all the parties success in building the first hydrogen-powered inland cargo vessel.
And of course I hope to be at the launch when the ship is christened with a bottle of sustainable organic champagne.
So, full speed ahead!