© Deutsche Post DHL/Jens Schlüter | The electrically powered ship is 10.50 meters long and 2.50 meters wide.

With solar power: parcel logistics on the water

Solar energy is not only a sustainable form of power generation on house roofs and agricultural land. It also gives parcel logistics a boost, as an innovative pilot project in Berlin shows.

Berlin is not Venice, but the German capital also has an extensive network of waterways - and more than twice as many bridges as the Italian lagoon city. For decades, not only excursion ships but also cargo ships have been sailing on Berlin's waters, transporting goods and merchandise. The waterways also offer new climate-friendly opportunities for inner-city parcel logistics. Deutsche Post DHL has recognized this and in October 2022 launched Germany's first pilot project for ecologically sustainable parcel logistics on water.

Even without sunshine, the ship travels for up to eight hours - silently and with zero emissions.

It is 10.50 meters long, bright yellow and, thanks to photovoltaics on the roof, travels silently and emission-free across the Spree: the solar ship from Deutsche Post DHL. With a propulsion power of five kilowatts, the ship can travel up to twelve kilometers per hour. In sunny weather, it can travel indefinitely; without sunlight, the energy stored in a battery lasts for six to eight hours. In addition to the propulsion system, the solar modules from cooperation partner Solarwaterworld also supply all the other technology required on board.

With a delivery fleet of around 1,000 e-vehicles and more than 1,700 electric cargo bikes, Deutsche Post DHL already delivers letter and parcel shipments in almost half of all delivery districts in Berlin in a CO2-neutral manner. The solar ship is an ideal addition. The transport route for the shipments begins at the Börnicke parcel center near Nauen. From there, a truck brings four to five parcel trolleys with a total of up to 250 parcels to the docking point of the solar ship in the southern port of Spandau. Within around 100 minutes, the innovative vehicle transports the freight to the western port. After unloading, the parcels continue their journey from here in just as environmentally friendly a manner - using electric cargo bikes.

In mid-December, the solar ship transported its 100,000th parcel.

After the first few months, Deutsche Post DHL is taking positive stock: "The pilot project is running smoothly and we are pleased that with the solar ship, together with our partners BEHALA and Solarwaterworld, we can show: sustainable parcel transport on water is possible in Berlin," says Sven Goerke, head of the Berlin Parcel branch.

Deutsche Post DHL is now looking into the use of a second solar ship, and also has an idea to push CO2-neutral delivery in the capital even further: setting up parcel stations at the stops of the emission-free ship. Talks with the state of Berlin are already underway. In June 2023, the cooperation partners want to discuss a continuation of the pilot project with an expanded route. If the project continues, Neukölln and Mariendorf will also be able to say: "Ready to dock!