Making the climate call count for ports

Port of London Authority became the first UK port to introduce a ‘green tariff' last year
Port of London Authority became the first UK port to introduce a ‘green tariff' last year
Norway's Ålesund now offers a 30% discount on harbour dues for environmentally-friendly cruise ships
Norway's Ålesund now offers a 30% discount on harbour dues for environmentally-friendly cruise ships
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal has introduced its own emissions calculator

What role should ports play in reducing emissions from shipping? Felicity Landon reports

The world will be watching as the International Maritime Organization sets its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from shipping, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim told member states at the IMO’s 30th Assembly session.

Shortly afterwards, Lloyd’s Register and University Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS) released ‘Zero Emissions Vessels 2030’, a study aiming to demonstrate the viability of zero emissions vessels (ZEVs) and identify what needs to be in place to make them a competitive solution.

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee is due to adopt its initial GHG strategy in April. In the run-up to this significant date, much has been written, and said, about shipping’s responsibility to reduce emissions and the technology that will drive results – but where do ports come into the picture? And, given that the onus will be on ports to deliver the associated infrastructure, should they have more influence in the debate?

“Ports need to be at the table to ensure that their interests are being met, as well as to offer their counsel on strategic approaches,” says IMO maritime ambassador Carleen Lyden-Walker. “Ports and ships are inextricably linked – the greater the collaboration to meet common goals, the greater chance of success.”

Ms Lyden-Walker, who is co-founder and executive director of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), says: “Through technology, shipping could be at zero emissions by 2035, but not fully decarbonised. A combination of many approaches – scrubbers, LNG, batter, nuclear fusion – will be utilised to achieve this. It will be important for ports to provide the infrastructure to support these endeavours – waste reception facilities for scrubber ash, LNG bunkering availability and charging stations will be needed to make this practicable.”

Should ports prefer not to get involved in the practicalities, they could create a commercial entity that could develop these capabilities, she suggests.

Bridging the gap

Describing herself as "a great believer in bridging the gap that exists between ships and ports", Ms Lyden-Walker cites examples of port environmental and other managers having little understanding of environmental regulations as they affect shipping.

“Ports must, indeed, be at the table – but they must ensure their representatives are educated about shipping and its operational challenges,” she says. “By the same token, shipping needs to recognise that the port is the community face of our industry, so a broader level of understanding of the shared responsibility, and opportunity for collaboration, is important.”

A factor that needs to be remembered is that not all ships trade in the same way and hence there are differing needs in ports, says Ms Lyden-Walker.

“For instance, cold ironing (onshore power) and LNG are only practical for ships that trade from Port A to Port B on a regular, scheduled route. That way, investment in infrastructure to either plug into shore power or invest in LNG bunkering facilities makes sense.

“Most ships, though, do not run such regular routes. In this instance, facilitating reduced emissions by supporting the operational aspects of such a goal – waste reception facilities, charging stations, etc. – will help greatly to achieve the objective of reduced emissions.”

Green options

In January 2017, the Port of London Authority became the first UK port to introduce a ‘green tariff’, offering a 5% discount on port charges for vessels with an Environmental Shipping Index (ESI) score of 30 or above.

At the end of the year, the PLA published its draft Air Quality Strategy, the result of research, consultation and the first ever port-wide emissions inventory for the tidal Thames.

Part of the PLA’s Thames Vision, the strategy aims to reduce emissions from marine sources while supporting the increased use of the river for passenger and freight movements. There are 19 proposals, including exploring onshore power, trialling new emissions-reducing technology with Thames Clippers through retrofitting engines, and running an ‘Expo’ to share emerging best practice with Thames operators. A five-year action plan from 2018 to 2022 includes continued research.

“We are taking the lead in this,” says PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer. “There are two ways of driving emissions reductions. There is the regulatory approach, and there is a place for that with IMO, EU and UK standards, and there are market-based solutions – using the power of being in the supply chain or as a consumer to drive behaviour.

“Ports have a role to play in both – in influencing the regulatory situation, where we are keen to make sure there is a level playing field and some ports are not disadvantaged, and in our more direct role as a key part of the supply chain. Our green tariff was the first step in this.

“In isolation, perhaps it isn’t going to achieve very much – but if enough ports around the world have incentives for greener shipping, it will provide the impetus for shipping lines to invest faster and turn over their older fleets faster, because you are changing the economics.”

Air quality

There is a particular onus on the PLA because its operations include the UK’s busiest inland waterway and the capital city’s overall air quality problems are a big political issue.

The PLA’s Air Quality Strategy includes a mix of measures, says Mr Mortimer, and further studies are a vital part of that.

“The big issue for us is inland waterway vessels. There isn’t really an evidence base to take simple regulatory action such as an emissions charging scheme, because we don’t know yet what is technically possible. So, we will do follow-up work to look at the most cost-effective solutions to emissions abatement.”

The Thames Clippers trial is set to be extended to establish whether the technology can be introduced on every type of vessel and what the cost would be. “Once we have that data, we will be talking to the GLA and others about how we make that happen.

“If we know that we can reduce NOX emissions by 50% on every vessel at a specific average cost, we can start to think about a combination of regulatory and incentive measures – possibly even a fund to support installation of this technology.”

However, the PLA must be wary of rushing ahead, he emphasises. “What we don’t want is a system which penalises water transport, which is in many ways much better and has less impact on air quality – because it is in the middle of the river, and also from the carbon perspective and because it reduces road congestion. We don’t want a draconian regime which makes it impossible to operate because the limits set are too low compared with what is achievable.”

Ports do need to be involved in the industry’s efforts to reduce emissions from shipping, says Mr Mortimer. However, he adds: “For a move towards LNG, for example, there is an assumption that the infrastructure will be provided and that someone will find it commercially viable to provide it – and I think that is broadly right. If there is a shift in technology, there is no doubt it will become commercially attractive to step into the market.

“For the PLA, we need to know the facts and we need to proceed in a measured way. There is a lot of information yet to be gathered on what technology is going to make the most difference from the inland waterways point of view.”


The new World Ports Sustainability Programme (WPSP) will be launched at an international conference in Antwerp, March 22-23. The initiative extends the scope of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) World Ports Climate Initiative beyond climate action, to include future-proof infrastructure, climate and energy, societal integration, safety and security and governance and ethics.

Initiated by the IAPH and based on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the WPSP aims to coordinate sustainability efforts by ports.

Meanwhile, ports continue to announce their own measures. The Norwegian port of Ålesund is offering a 30% discount on harbour dues for cruise ships that have a score of 50 or more points on the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) from the start of 2018.

The Panama Canal has launched its own emissions calculator, to enable shippers to assess their carbon emissions, rank those which have reduced most emissions by transiting the canal versus alternative routes, and encourage action to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Port of Antwerp is investing €1.4m over the next three years in a series of projects to make port-generated freight traffic smoother and more efficient, aiming to reduce truck journeys by up to 250,000 a year. The projects include new rail and barge services, and avoiding empty truck trips by finding return loads.

The Port of New York and New Jersey has introduced a ban on trucks that are 23 years old or older, from January this year, although this has been criticised by environmentalists because it is far less stringent than an earlier proposal to ban trucks dated 2007 or older.

Then in Estonia, the Port of Tallinn is offering a 4% discount on port charges for vessels using LNG as their primary fuel. Tallinn also provides incentives for ships that have invested in scrubbers for reducing sulphur compounds in emissions, and accepts the waste generated by scrubbers without charging additional fees. In October 2017, Tallink moved its cargo ship Sea Wind to operate from Muuga Harbour instead of Tallinn Old City Harbour. “This means that more than 40,000 trucks per year will be removed from the city centre and congestion and pollution in the city will be significantly reduced,” said the port.


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