Harwich Port Photo 142229494 © Ton Snijders Dreamstime.com
© Ton Snijders Dreamstime.com

UK maritime minister Robert Courts has called for evidence on the beneficial roll-out of shore power across ports in the UK, which will allow vessels to plug into grid energy while at berth rather than running their engines alongside.

As well as improving profitability for shipping lines, shore power is likely to play a role in improving shipping’s green value proposition versus other forms of transport.

The need for operators to fork out for more expensive zero- or carbon-neutral fuel types will only improve the business case for shore power.

Additionally, allowing vessels to plug into grid power while they sit at berth eliminates the pollution funnels. Energy from national electrical grids tends to be cheaper than ship fuel, as well as partially derived from renewable energy, at a proportion of around 36% in the case of the UK.

“Shore power will end the outdated practice of ships keeping their engines running while anchored in port, reducing the poisonous fumes entering the air and ensuring we meet our net zero 2050 goals,” said Mr Courts.

He also cited the UK’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, which last year pledged £23m to fund more than 55 decarbonisation projects.

In general, ferries lead the way in terms of adopting shore power. Stena Line, a major ferry operator to the UK, already has some vessels which use shore power at ports in Europe.

“We are in discussions with ports in Denmark and Sweden, as well as the UK,” added spokesperson Simon Palmer.

Stena is aiming to release all-electric vessel designs in 2030, raising the possibility that ferries might eventually make crossings on battery power. Unfortunately, there is a substantial difference in the power requirement for an entire transit, versus simply switching off engines alongside.

“We could run these vessels off battery power today – but there would be no room for vehicles.” said Mr Palmer.

Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group, said: “Shore power has the potential to play a positive part in the future of zero-emission maritime, although it is an area that faces some significant challenges. The ‘call for evidence’ is therefore an important step in finding the right, viable ways that industry, Government and networks can work together to support the wider deployment of shore power where it is an appropriate solution.”

Shore power is championed in various parts of Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, where there is a large amount of cheap renewable energy. Even the third of renewable energy the UK provides is a dramatic cut in CO2 efficiency compared with burning ship fuel, especially when also taking account the differences in efficiency between ship engines and fossil-fuel power stations, which can reach double in some cases.

“This call for evidence is a step forward and will help us all better understand the current barriers to delivering more shore power to ships,” said Mark Simmonds, director of policy & external affairs for the British Ports Association. “We look forward to sharing the sector’s experiences so far and exploring how industry and government can work together to lower emissions in ports.”

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.