Bruges moves closer towards electric tours with launch of first tourist e-boat

Bruges moves closer towards electric tours with launch of first tourist e-boat
The total cost of an electric boat is €200,000- approximately double the cost of a diesel engine boat. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The first electric boat for tourists was put to use in the Bruges canal on Wednesday morning.

Nine meters in length and over two meters in width, the boat was placed into the canal near the Gruuthusemuseum, using a crane.

With the electric boat, there are no emissions, no odours, and much less noise pollution than a boat with a diesel engine. Further still, the electric boats cause less waves, therefore doing less damage to quay walls.

However, while "the advantages are clear, the disadvantage is that they cost a lot of money," boatman of the Gruuthuse company, Frederik Coucke, told HLN.

Coming to a cost of no less than €200,000, the price of an electric boat is double the cost of a boat with a diesel engine.

In addition to the comparatively steep cost, there are concerns about whether the boat will have any 'teething problems,' after a pilot electric boat that has been sailing in the Bruges canal since 2010 had quite a lot of problems, causing some reluctance from operators to engage in further electric related ventures.

"If something goes wrong, I don't know if that problem can be solved as quickly as with one of our other boats. If a diesel engine is breaking, then we can usually solve that problem in an hour, because we have a lot of spare parts on our hands," Coucke added.

Over time, the city of Bruges wants to replace all diesel boats with electric ones.

"By the end of the year, the five shipping companies [in Bruges] will each have one [electric model] in use," said head of tourism in Bruges, Philip Pierins (SP.A).

Tourism Bruges is providing the shipping companies with financial support for the installation of charging points and extension of the jetty landing piers. Further still, the city administration immediately extended the operating license for the five shipping companies by an additional five years.

To help bear the burden of purchasing an electric boat, the city council allowed since last year the rate for a trip on the canal to be increased from €8 to €10.

Evie McCullough

The Brussels Times

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