Moving public transport onto waterways

Moving public transport from roads to rivers can benefit crowded cities worldwide. With the zero-emission Urban Water Shuttle™, it can soon become a reality.

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Waterways are an untapped source of mobility for city dwellers. Eight out of the ten largest cities in the world are coastal – and a majority of large, non-coastal cities are riverside. Yet public transportation in and around these urban centres is predominantly land based. So underused are waterways, in fact, that the EU’s barometer of public transport does not even report on ferry transportation in European cities.

There is, however, a pressing need to increase the capacity of city transport networks. The global urban population is expected to grow by between 1.6 and 1.8 per cent each year until 2025, according to the World Health Organization. That means increased stress on roads and railways, leading to greater congestion as well as pollution. When half of all particle pollution in OECD countries already stems from road transport, it is clear that the benefits of moving traffic off the roads are huge.

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High speed and zero emissions

NCE Maritime CleanTech is developing the Urban Water Shuttle to alleviate strained public transport networks. A cluster of maritime companies in Western Norway, NCE Maritime CleanTech is working closely with member companies Servogear, Wärtsilä, Fjellstrand, Grenland Energy, Hydro Extrusion and CFD Marine to build the shuttle as the equivalent of a metro service on water.

The Urban Water Shuttle™ is a system of high-speed, zero-emissions vessels running on battery power. The shuttles come with auto-mooring terminal systems, allowing for quick passenger loading and immediate charging. This means shuttles can stay continuously powered for long hours of operation.

The individual shuttles are built with a hydrodynamic hull design, using well-established zero-emission technology. The 25–30m vessels can be designed for 150-200 passengers and will run at a speed of 20 knots, ensuring efficient operations and passenger comfort.

Concrete benefits

Infrastructure investments are usually the biggest hurdle for public transport development. Digging tunnels and building rails are costly processes that disrupt a city for years. With the Urban Water Shuttle, however, the waterways are already there. The only construction needed is terminals and the boats themselves. Maintenance costs are similarly low.

The Urban Water Shuttle, moreover, is fully electric, meaning zero greenhouse gas emissions and no local air pollution. With green city initiatives taking root worldwide, a comprehensive, emission-free public transport system such as this is a valuable asset.

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Market potential

Since large cities are predominantly coastal, while public transport mainly runs on land, the potential market for water transport is huge. Individual cities will have different needs, but a common denominator is population stress on urban areas and a need to expand geographically. Connecting large sections of a metropolitan area can help to boost the overall economy and thus be a positive reinforcement for investment in public transport.

The Urban Water Shuttle is a pilot project and a joint effort between several companies and research centres across Norway. NCE Maritime CleanTech is also involved in a project that aims to lower the production costs of such vessel through new modular production methods. The project, that will result in a fully electric demo vessel, has received funding under the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. This vessel will begin operating in the city of Stavanger in 2022.

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Meatjønnsvegen 74, 5412 STORD, Norway

+47 926 30 119

At a glance

  • High-speed, zero-emissions public transport system on water

  • No need for costly infrastructure investments

  • Pilot project from Norwegian cleantech cluster


Under development
The solution is a concept, prototype, close to piloting, or the like.

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