By plugging into the power grid with 100 per cent renewable electricity and turning off their diesel engines, ships at berth in the UK would reduce emissions equivalent to 84,000 to 166,000 diesel buses – or 1.2 million diesel cars representative of the current UK fleet.
The pressure is mounting for the UK to align with EU air pollution emission targets, and ships at berth need to cut their fuel consumption and port authorities and terminal operators need to integrate shore power capabilities in a simpler and more efficient way.
Schneider Electric supports decarbonisation through its business efforts, this has led to a sponsored study into the emissions from idling ships at berth in UK ports that affects the quality of the air we breathe. Often neglected as source of air pollution, ships spewing toxic emissions near to coastal towns and cities puts people and the environment at risk.
While road transport pollution garners public prominence because it is so visible in our everyday lives, we should not underestimate the impact that portside emissions have on the environment and the cost of keeping society healthy.
Offshore supply vessels, fishing boats, roll-on-roll-off, bulk carriers and passenger ferries contribute the most to the emissions from auxiliary engines at berth. The emissions from all vessels’ auxiliary engines at berth in UK ports in 2016 is estimated to be equivalent to nearly 2.6 per cent of the total transport sector emissions of nitrogen oxides in the UK.
The best estimates of these emissions from auxiliary engines are 830,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 11,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 270 tonnes in particulate matter and 520 tonnes of sulphur dioxide.
There were approximately 110,000 buses and coaches in the UK fleet in 2016 and the study has found that ships’ auxiliary engines at berth are equivalent to the nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions equivalent to 84,000 to 166,000 buses and coaches representative of those currently in the UK fleet, respectively.
Dirty air has been linked to asthma symptoms, heart disease and even lung cancer. It has been linked to dementia and is also known to increase the risk of children growing up with smaller lungs. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of the UK pollution – 40 million people – live in areas where diesel pollution threatens their health, according to Friends of the Earth.
Global deaths linked to ambient air pollution are estimated to have increased by just under 20 per cent since 1990, while 95 per cent of the world’s population is now breathing toxic air, according to a recent study by the Health Effects Institute while the Royal College of Physicians has found that air pollution in the UK contributes to 40,000 deaths per year.
The UK could bypass a major health hazard as well as avoid health and environmental impacts of up to £402 million per year through the elimination of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulates – using the introduction of shore connections at UK ports. If all the emissions from the auxiliary engines at berth from these vessels were reduced to zero by replacement with power from 100 per cent renewable electricity sources, the value in reducing emissions would be between £136 million and £483 million per year.
“The UK is one of the last global regions to introduce shore connections at its ports and it will take industry collaboration and innovation to bring forward the introduction of portside electricity in a quick and sustainable manner. There is now a global standard for shore connections and it is up to our ports now to catch up with the global norm and demonstrate that we truly believe in a cleaner, healthier future,” says Peter Selway, Marine Segment Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric.
While health conscious countries like the UK are employing proactive policies to help curb the dangerous impacts of air pollution and the ongoing efforts to alleviate roadside toxic fumes is indeed noble, the long-term impact of the shipping industry should not be ignored.
Globally, the partnership between the Port of Seattle and the shipping industry has seen annual CO2 emissions being cut by up to 29 per cent annually in the port, with financial savings of up to 26 per cent per port call. Meanwhile, shore connection capabilities have been mandatory for all ships at berth in California since
2010 and by 2020, at least 80 per cent of berths have to be equipped with shore connection technology.