Kem One launches the building of the first hybrid vessels for the Rhône complying with the new regulation


By late 2022, Kem One will put into service two hybrid-engine vessels that comply with the new regulation on pollutant emissions. The company will be the first on the Rhône to make its fleet green, reducing the carbon emitted in transporting its raw materials by 2,000 tonnes every year.


From 2023, new vessels will transport vinyl chloride, the chief component in PVC, between the Kem One sites at Fos-sur-Mer/Lavéra and Saint-Fons near Lyon. Frédéric Chalmin, managing director of Kem One, announced on 17 March last in Lyon that Kem One had placed an order for two self-propelled vessels with the Dutch shipbuilder Teamco Shipyard. The investment is approximately €20 million.

Kem One will be the first shipper on the Rhône to use diesel-electric propulsion vessels complying with the new regulation on pollutant emissions for inland navigation. The regulation has introduced sharp cuts in Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons. Furthermore, all wastewater on the vessels will be stored on board, treated and discharged at wharf stations as part of the “zero-waste” goal.

©TeamCo Shipyard


Opening up the way to other energy sources

In opting for a diesel-electric propulsion with three generators, Kem One expects to lower energy use and carbon emissions by some 30-35%, thanks to a system that regulates energy production. This innovative choice will facilitate subsequent moves toward other energy sources such as biofuels, hydrogen and electricity, without having to modify the propulsion system.

These new vessels will also be equipped with the means to connect to high-voltage electrical terminals on the dock so that they will not have to use their generators during loading and unloading, thereby reducing emissions further. Once in service, these ships will reduce emissions from the transport sector by over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, in keeping with Kem One’s commitment when it joined the Fret 21 programme. The vessels will replace the current ships, Samoen and Passaat, which were built in 1980 and 1982 and subsequently refurbished toward the end of the 1990s to transport vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) on the Rhône.

Kem One has been supported in this project by the European Union and Voies Navigables de France (VNF), which actively pushes for green river vessels. As part of this support, Kem One will receive a contribution from the Modernisation Assistance Plan managed by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), as well as a subsidy from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Rhône-Saône interregional contractual plan.

Pierre Fauvarque, Purchasing and Supply Chain Director, commented: “Considering the location of our industrial sites next to the Rhône and the significant tonnage of vinyl chloride transported yearly between our factories, river transport is the most suitable means of transport. These new vessels will satisfy our internal needs while protecting the environment. They are strategic long-term assets for the company.”

The design of the hull and other detailed designs are now under way, with assistance from the shipbroker Atlantic Marine Services. Transport capacity will be slightly greater than that of the existing ships, so that any future growth in the business can be covered. These barges will cover 80-100% of VCM requirements for the PVC factories at Saint-Fons and Balan, while ensuring the long-term future of river transportation. Their reliability and safety are a step toward environmental sustainability.