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Royal Niestern Sander builds first fully electric Dutch utility vessel

Ship name
Project type
Ship building
Ship type
Electric utility vessel

Groningen implements green agenda

Shipyard Royal Niestern Sander – a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wagenborg Group – has delivered the first Dutch fully electric utility vessel to the Province of Groningen. The new green vessel, the PW 18, was christened in March 2019 by Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk, Executive Councillor for the Province of Groningen. After the christening ceremony, we spoke to the shipyard’s Managing Director Jan Doorduin and Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk about this sustainable ship.

Dutch electric utility vessel
length over all
moulded beam

Time for a new ship

“I feel honoured to be the sponsor of this new electric utility vessel and to have christened it the PW 18 here in Delfzijl today,” says Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk, smiling broadly. “It was during one of my first working visits as a new member of the Provincial Executive that I boarded our current utility vessel and saw that it was older than I am. Although it was doing a tremendous job, we wanted a vessel that would be sustainable and circular in design, in keeping with the Province of Groningen’s green agenda.”

Smart & green agenda

The Province of Groningen has positioned itself as a national leader in sustainability in recent years. “In every area of policy where the Province has an influence, we must do our best to promote the necessary transition to sustainability,” says Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk. “That is why we are constantly on the lookout for innovative and sustainable solutions that promote smarter, greener mobility and infrastructure, including maintenance. We now have a number of electric service vehicles. In a few months’ time, our province will be running the largest fleet of electric buses in the Netherlands and the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered buses in the world. And our green & smart agenda also covers this electric utility vessel. It had to be a vessel that exemplifies the Province of Groningen’s contribution to innovation and the energy transition. So we chose a vessel powered by clean, safe energy, as a sign that we’re implementing our green agenda.”

Groningen innovation

The new electric utility vessel is the first of its kind in the Netherlands to be powered entirely by “green” battery power on normal working days. It is unique to have a utility vessel of such size and power running entirely on electricity. Managing Director Jan Doorduin explains: “The electrically powered utility vessel is a wonderful example of innovation infused with craftsmanship. First of all thanks to the Province of Groningen, the user, which decided that this ship had to be completely emission-free. This is government as a ‘launching customer’, setting a good example and showing that it’s prepared to invest in new technology. And that technology offers us and the northern Dutch maritime cluster the prospect of follow-up projects, for example hydrogen-powered vessels.” Various Groningen subcontractors and regional suppliers were involved in the project, for example in the engineering and the supply of steel, the engine room components, the navigation systems and the rescue equipment.

“The electrically powered utility vessel is a wonderful example of innovation infused with craftsmanship”
Jan Doorduin

New technologies

The most eye-catching new technology is the installed battery pack. Its installation on a utility ship of such size and power is unique. Thanks to the electric propulsion system developed by Hydrosta, the vessel is able to operate with zero emissions on a regular working day. Says Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk with pride, “In addition to electric propulsion, choosing this vessel also means choosing sustainable materials and energy recovery.” For example, its antifouling system is not a copper-leaching coating but a silicon-based film made by PPG. It isn’t applied with a paint sprayer, with all the health risks and pollution that entails, but straight off the roll. Finally, an ingenious heat recovery system conceived by the firm of Mave utilises residual heat from the on-board systems. “This project is giving us a lot of experience that we can apply more widely and use to boost Groningen’s maritime infrastructure,” Jan Doorduin adds.

Skilled professionals

The steel sheeting for this “small” vessel (by Niestern Sander standards) was half the usual thickness. There was some concern about how to retain the sleek lines of Vripak’s design in such a compact structure. “Of course, it all depended on our having absolutely the right steel from CIG Centraalstaal,” says Jan Doorduin. “But what also matters is controlled and masterful assembly and welding in the right order, with a minimum application of heat. The result is impressive, thanks to the efforts of our skilled professionals.”

“The new PW 18 is the flagship of our smart & green agenda, literally and figuratively”
Fleur Gräper - van Koolwijk


The Province of Groningen manages approximately 143 km of waterways. The electric utility vessel will be used for monitoring and enforcement, during events and for supervising special transports by water in Groningen and the northern Netherlands The new electric vessel is a marvellous example of how the Province of Groningen is contributing to innovation and the energy transition. Says Fleur Gräper-Van Koolwijk, “The new PW 18 is the flagship of our smart & green agenda, literally and figuratively”. Both the Province of Groningen and the Royal Niestern Sander shipyard are proud of this innovative and sustainable project in the north of the Netherlands. As the Executive Councillor for the Province of Groningen and sponsor of the PW 18, Fleur Gräper-Van Koolwijk concluded: “It’s wonderful that our EU procurement procedure led us to a shipyard right in our own province that was willing to join us in the challenge of building this vessel. And the fact that the same shipyard built our current utility vessel 46 years ago is a wonderful coincidence!”