Reducing emissions is a critical factor in the success of ports around the globe.

Ship Harmony of the Seas in Rotterdam | Royal HaskoningDHV

The European Commission forecasts that EU-related ship CO₂ emissions alone will increase by between 50-250% by 2050, when compared to 1990 levels – that’s a huge increase, and one which we can’t afford to see happen. In response, the European Union is calling for a global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

And Cold Ironing – the connection of ships to the local power grid while berthed in port – is just one solution that could help make ports more environmentally friendly.

By taking electrical power from the grid instead of ships using on-board diesel generators, it’s possible for ports to eliminate local noise and the emissions of exhaust gases almost completely.

One key group that this will be vital for is cruise liners.

Cruising in the city

Reducing environmental impact is a problem that is particularly pertinent for cruise liners, taking into consideration the neighbourhood which may be in close proximity to the port. Cruise ships often have to dock right in the city centre, whereas a container ship could be more than 20km away from the middle of the city.

Even when berthed, cruise liners require an electrical power capacity up to 10MW. Generating that level of power on-board the ship will inevitably cause disturbance to close neighbours, both in terms of noise and air quality.

If the ship is connected instead to the public grid, then the ship itself is silent and clean – even the generation of electricity in a fossil-fuel fired power plant is much more efficient than a local diesel generator on board a ship.

Take the Port of Rotterdam for instance. A berthing location for river cruise ships in the port is situated just 30m away from the nearest houses. It took the decision to implement Cold Ironing in 2010 with provision of shore power for a total of four ships, including a local connection to the public grid. Since then, the port has had no complaints from its neighbours.

A global movement

The trend for implementing this type of technology is picking up pace.

The Port of Marseille Fos recently joined the World Ports Climate Initiative and is set to reduce port dues for ships performing better than required under air pollution regulations from July this year. Earlier this year, the Port of London Authority also introduced discounts for ships that come under the maximum allowances set out in these international emissions standards.

Cruise ship operators are also working hard to prepare their liners for shore power connection. Princess Cruises, for instance, already has 14 ships in its fleet which are equipped with Cold Ironing facilities.

We’re in no doubt that the rest of the world will soon follow-suit.

So why bother?

The main driver has to be competitiveness for both the port and fleet operator. In order to be able to dock in every port around the world, cruise liners will have to be equipped with shore power once regulation inevitably comes into force in the near future.

But who is driving this change? Does the responsibility lie with the port or ship operators themselves? We would argue, it has to be both.

Cost is inevitably a big driver in implementing a Cold Ironing solution. But as it becomes more mainstream over the next 5-10 years, the cost will certainly have to become more competitive in order to make the system a success. Whilst a shore power project will never be profitable if we only take the margin on sales of electricity as profit, the implementation of such a solution can bring significant wider benefits particularly for ports located in the city centre, close to residential areas.

And operators must take into account that if oil prices continue to increase, connecting to shore power undoubtedly becomes more attractive as operators are no longer dependent on any fluctuations in oil price, and can also begin to benefit from using renewable power sources.

We are starting to see breakthroughs but it’s important that both sides work to implement and drive such change, as one won’t happen without the other.

Cold Ironing considerations

There are undeniably a number of challenges in the shift to using shore power:

  • Power provision - ports are huge power consumers, often using up to 10MW per ship. So sometimes it’s necessary to upgrade the entire power system near to the port, and this can be a hugely complicated process involving numerous stakeholders – particularly when located in the city centre
  • Safety - this is especially important in public areas. Port operators have to make it easy for users to access shore power facilities, but at the same time limit access and ensure security for other parties
  • Operational planning - clients often don’t think about who will operate the Cold Ironing solution once it’s in place. Training for this new methodology is imperative, and before building the infrastructure, all of these factors must be taken into consideration

And that’s where we come in.

Get ahead of the game

Royal HaskoningDHV’s scope when it comes to Cold Ironing is two-fold.

We provide studies to assess the feasibility of getting shore power up and running. With each individual case, we determine the advantages and disadvantages of numerous options, depending on the number of ships using a port per year, as well as taking into consideration pricing issues.

At the beginning of a study, we will always start with the port’s ship database – taking into consideration the size and electrical characteristics of the ships that have docked there over the last five years, in addition to identifying how long they usually spend in the port.

Once those initial studies are completed, we can also provide technical support on the ground throughout the design, tender and construction phases – and we have a long track-record in architectural design as well as maritime engineering.

To be ahead of the game and reduce your environmental impact, read more about our service offering here.