Clock ticking on port emissions

Industry Database

COMMENT: It won’t have escaped your notice that your diesel car is now worth up to 26% less than when you last totted-up your net worth, writes Charles Haine.

The leaders of France and UK have declared citywide fossil fuel vehicle bans not before 2040. The savvy motorist yearns for a hybrid or electric car while VW has halted e-Golf orders because of red hot demand. This is the story of emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, harming human health, and governments awakening from hibernation. It makes me wonder how quickly a 20-litre per hour guzzling straddle carrier will become a stranded asset.

Meanwhile, global demand for goods will increase greenhouse gas emissions from shipping between 50% and a whopping 250%, by 2050, without regulation. Eyes are on the IMO to continue its efforts towards an ambitious GHG emissions’ target, now that aviation is expected to deliver on its market-based measures to control CO2.

Port Liner is building two electric barges – dubbed ‘Tesla Ships’ – for Dutch canals. These battery-powered vessels can each hold 280 containers and take around 4,000 trucks off the roads a year. It’s happening. This technology will scale-up rapidly, just like cars, but have considerable added benefit if retrofit proves cost-effective.

The maritime space is a bubbling pot of finger-pointing on air quality, technology change, energy deals and momentum on climate change action. In the background, many ports have gone about their business quietly, measuring carbon properly and making energy-efficient equipment choices. Our future is electric and we must prepare for that now, to be future ready. Big ticket diesel machinery in ports might be extinct within a decade. All that’s needed now is a tweet from Elon Musk to solve the cost conundrum of shoreside power.

2018 is going to see the coming together of news, awareness and rhetoric on air quality and climate change. Both are key issues in the maritime supply chain, interlinked and driven by fuel and energy patterns. It’s important to understand that ports are only a small piece of that tricky jigsaw. Being highly visible to authorities, ports must continue to show leadership on these topics, especially because of their strategic position between shipper and end user.

Charles Haine is technical director for Maritime at WSP.

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