Port of Södertälje working towards safer transports

When literally millions of liters of aviation fuel are delivered to Bromma airport annually means that thousands of tanker trucks must drive through Stockholm, on some of the capital’s most congested roads. Port of Södertälje has now put forward a proposal for safer aviation fuel transports, via inland waterways.

Every year planes at Bromma airport use over 55 million liters of aviation fuel, today mainly a fossil fuel but in the future, hopefully, renewable. Regardless of which kind of fuel that planes currently use there’s no getting away from the fact that large volumes of aviation fuel will continue to be delivered to Bromma airport until its envisaged closure in 2038.

Aviation fuel deliveries to Bromma involve 1 500 tanker trucks that drive from Berg’s oil terminal in Nacka and out to the airport. They arrive full and depart empty driving a total of 42 kilometers round trip on some of Sweden’s most congested roads. These roads include the very busy South link road, the equally clogged-up Essinge peripheral and lastly the national roads 275 and 279. This heavy traffic creates noise pollution and leads to frequent accidents, not to mention the large emissions of carbon dioxide from trucks that all go to make Stockholm even less navigable. Berg’s, Nacka and Loudden oil terminals are earmarked for imminent closure and turned into much needed housing. Fuel volumes will instead be moved to Södertälje which will then be the only fuel terminal in the Stockholm county.

To this end Port of Södertälje, together with the Maritime/Road administrations, the City of Stockholm and Avatar Logistics have drawn up proposals regarding fuel transports to reduce environmental impact, congestion, accidents and noise pollution. The proposal involves the use of inland waterways to transport fuel from Södertälje in new vessels run on natural gas. The tanker vessels would be able use the inland waterway from Södertälje to Bällsta Bay and the Ulvsunda industrial estate that is just 500 meters from Bromma airport. The airport already has the cisterns in place to store the fuel.

The advantages are obvious. Both the number of accidents would decrease and the congestion on the road network reduced. Heavy tanker trucks that once clogged the roads would be replaced by quieter and environmentally friendly vessels. However, these proposals present big challenges. Since the 50s practically all transports in the Stockholm area have been made by truck and we’re simply not accustomed for transports being made via inland waterway shipping in this capital city, largely made up of islands. Sweden is lagging behind in the use of inland waterway transports compared to both Holland and Germany where this form of transport is a far more common occurrence.

Intensive work is being undertaken during this autumn to ensure that the project is technically possible to implement. One of the absolutely most important aspects is to ensure that the water quality of Lake Mälaren, which is a source of drinking water for many, will not be negatively affected by any eventual fuel spill. On the continent there is a continuous argument for fuel transports to instead use inland waterways where the risk of accidents are lower than truck transports, which is a vital point to include in the discussions. Modern inland waterway vessels have completely different maneuvering characteristics and are constructed to minimize any eventual fuel spill. We will no doubt be returning to the subject sooner rather than later as the majority look forward to a solution to further reduce carbon emissions, endless queues of trucks on the roads, accidents and noise pollution.

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