The new report, published by Schneider Electric and consultants Ricardo, has suggested that all ships docked at UK ports should switch-off diesel engines and instead plug into the power grid to source renewable electricity.

When ships berth, or “park up”, at harbours and docks many usually switch off main engines but keep diesel generators running to power various operations. The report notes that switching off these engines in favour of sourcing renewable energy from local grids, orchestrated by port authorities and terminal operators, could reduce UK emissions by 830,000 tonnes – an amount greater than the emissions of the UK’s entire bus fleet.

The report estimated total emissions released by vessels’ auxiliary engines at berth in ports. Ports accounted for 2.6% of the transport sector’s total nitrogen oxide emissions – which are linked to human health and air quality. Combined, the emissions for berthed ships accounted for 1.3% of total UK emissions each year. with offshore supply vessels, fishing boats, roll-on-roll-off, bulk carriers and passenger ferries contributing the most to the emissions from auxiliary engines at berth, the report found.

However, the UK currently lacks the infrastructure to enable portside charging for electricity, with the report citing the need for investment into solutions.

“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,” Schneider Electric’s marine segment marketing manager Peter Selway said.

“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.”

Wide berth

According to the report, the UK could improve national health by tackling the “vast and neglected source of pollution”. Air pollution is a factoring cause of 40,000 premature deaths recorded annually in the UK, and the report claims that eliminating the release of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and particulates from berthed ships could save £483m in health-related costs.

Earlier this month, more than 170 countries reached agreement to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by “at least” 50% on 2008 levels by 2050, ending years of slow progress.

Shipping currently represents 2-3% of global CO2 emissions and could reach 10% by 2050 if no action is taken.

Matt Mace

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