Taking the sting out of shore side emissions
No smoking: reducing ship emissions at berth is win-win for ports, ship owners and the wider community. Credit: Jennifer Woodard-Maderazo
Shore connection technology will lead the way to greener, healthier ports, believes Schneider Electric's Lorène Grandidier
Port facilities and shipping companies worldwide need cost-effective techniques to reduce atmospheric and noise pollution in order to benefit workers and surrounding communities. Principle among these methods are shore connection systems that supply electricity to berthed ships, thereby eliminating the need to burn high sulphur heavy fuel oils to generate onboard power.
Studies indicate that ocean going vessels contribute significantly to coastal air pollution, particularly cruise ships which have significant 24/7 power demands. The health impacts attributed to the particulate matter emitted by marine power generation are serious, causing as many as 60,000 annual fatalities globally.
In developed nations, air quality has improved substantially during the last several decades, despite increases in population, traffic, and economic output. An exception are emissions from ships. The International Maritime Organisation, under Annex 6 of MARPOL recently introduced global regulations for NOx and SOx (nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide) emissions. Ship operators must progressively reduce the NOx and SOx content of their fuel while sailing, but it is in ports, near where people live that human health is most affected.
Appeals for more rigorous policies are widespread, particularly from concerned residents close to port facilities, and legislators have been responding. In the EU, US, China and other jurisdictions, new regulations mandate emission standards and promote a variety of measures to implement greener power for vessels. This movement toward legislated coastal air quality standards and best practices improvement is only expected to increase in the coming years.
Land-based power plants generally have a smaller eco-footprint than shipboard generation, so total carbon and particulate emissions, local air quality and noise pollution is improved with shore power systems. However, ship owners also have lower operating cost incentives as an additional reason to plug into a port’s distribution system.
Based on average 2011 marine diesel fuel prices of €983/ton, generating shipboard electricity cost €156 per MWh, as opposed to an average €120 per MWh for power from the grid. That differential is likely to increase as the future use of more expensive, low sulphur fuel is mandated.
Reducing generator use can also lead to substantial maintenance reductions and even lower port fees when berthed at one of the 30 ports that apply the Environmental Ship Index and offer rebates for greener ships. For ports and terminal operators installing shore connection systems, a faster return on their investment can be realised through an electricity sales revenue stream.
Built to supply navy ships, then mercantile vessels in the early 80s, virtually any type of commercial ship can easily connect to the grid today. For two years, an international standard (ISO/IEC/IEEC 80005-1) has enabled worldwide compatibilities between ships and ports by standardising voltage, cables, plugs and major safety requirements for each ship type.
Most modern architectures provide proven, reliable and flexible performance that can be adapted for practically any port type, berth topology or power need. Implementation should be completed by experts and often begins with a requirements audit. Dimensioning and design are then followed by installation and system commissioning. Full-service shore connection suppliers also provide essential support and maintenance services to ensure safe, reliable system operation. If available, modern management software adds real value by allowing port authorities to monitor use and bill for actual usage. Consumers can also forecast and optimise their energy consumption, while potentially trimming costs through improved contract negotiations with the utilities and selling negawatts back to the grid.
Ports are challenging, ever-changing locations that need all the benefits that advanced energy efficiency and pollution reduction technology can provide. Today’s proven shore connection systems are safe, compact and flexible enough to accommodate changing berth configurations. The pressure to make ports cleaner and greener is growing, and shore connection technology is helping make that goal a reality.
Lorène Grandidier is Schneider Electric's shore connection & marine strategic marketing manager.