Cold ironing, onshore power supply and shore connection refer to the same process: plugging ships into the national grid. By turning ship engines off while at berth, and thus cutting emissions, shore connection enables a considerable reduction of emissions in ports areas, says Lorène Grandidier, Shore Connection Strategic Marketing Manager of Schneider Electric.
History and state of the art
Shore connection was launched in some pioneer ports about 10 years ago. In North America, the cruise industry was among the first to implement it in order to reduce its environmental impact in some sensitive zones, such as Alaska. Following the Juneau success story, California started investigating this technology. Assessing that it was the most cost effective solution to tackle ship emissions in ports, the state government decided to regulate and mandate it for all major ports: by 2014, ships without a shore connection system will be banned from Californian ports; by 2020, 80% of the power used by berthed ships will have to come from shore-side electricity. Already for several years, Schneider Electric has helped Californian ports to implement shore connection. Consequently, major West Coast ports, such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle are using this solution and recording positive improvements in the air emissions around ports. Following the West Coast example, other US ports have already mentioned their willingness to move to this technology, such as the port in New York City.
The Canadian government has chosen another approach to encourage ports to invest in cold ironing and thereby improve air quality: funding. In particular, it has already provided $27.2 million last year to implement it in Halifax and Vancouver ports. The government has recently announced a new round of funding for 2013 to keep promoting green investment.
European ports have started the deployment of shore connection in their ports quite early. Sweden, followed by Germany, Belgium, Norway, and The Netherlands have already moved towards this solution, mainly for their ferry berths. More recently, Finland, at its Helsinki ports, has successfully plugged in Viking Line ships. Since ferry terminals are located very close to the city, the environmental benefits are clear. Indeed, when ferries arrive several times per week to the same berths, shore connection enables the reduction of hundreds of tonnes of pollutants. Europe’s stricter regulations have also been a driver of investment in cold ironing. Since 2010, vessels berthing for more than 2 hours have had to switch to a 0.1% sulphur fuel or use alternative technologies, such as shore side electricity. Upcoming regulations for the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) are also likely to include shore connection in port modernisation programmes.
It makes sense for ports to include cold ironing in their investment plans, and it also helps to meet the demand by ships for lower energy costs in order to comply with international regulations. Indeed, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) takes the problem of air pollution of ships seriously. The Marpol 6 regulations have already set a timeframe to progressively reduce the content of NOx and SOx fuel. Ships will have no other choice but to use fuel with an increasing lower sulphur level or to choose for alternative technologies. Shore connection has been officially noted as a way for ships to comply with the Marpol 6 requirement. Consequently, the number of ships being equipped to plug into and use a port shore connection system is skyrocketing. Most of new build ships are pre-equipped and major companies have started to retrofit their existing fleet.
The next step
Considering that ships coming from North America and Europe are going to be equipped accordingly, shore connection technologies have recently been developed in several Asian ports. China, which gathers a major part of the biggest ports and faces dramatic air problems in big cities, has included cold ironing in its 12th five-year plan. A technical code, which was released in August last year, even mentioned that this technology should be part of the construction of every new container, bulk and cruise terminal. Several ports in China, including Shenzhen and Shanghai, are already able to provide shore side electricity to ships in some berths.
More recently, several signs show the progress of cold ironing in other Asian ports. In the forefront is, Hong Kong, which is seriously exploring cold ironing primarily for its new Kai Tak cruise terminal. For sure, this solution is the best alternative to address the high shipping emissions recorded in the Pearl River Delta. The last Green Port event, held in Mumbai in March, is also the proof that India is joining this green movement. As a pioneer, the Kochi port in the South of India has implemented cold ironing for its Amet Majesty cruises in 2012. Finally, Schneider Electric won an order in mid-March to equip all of the berths with shore connection at a new Indonesian container port.
The reasons for development
Shipping is becoming a major source of air pollution. The issue is particularly problematic for cities located closed to large ports that consistently have dozens of berthed ships running their auxiliary engines by burning bunker fuel, particulate matter (PM), and SOx and NOx emissions reach an amount in tonnes. Several cities have performed studies to assess what was the contribution by ships in their total air pollutant emissions. Before cold ironing regulations, Los Angeles assessed that ships were responsible of about 30% of NOx (2nd biggest source) and 43% of PM (the biggest source) of port emissions.
Using shore connection instead of auxiliary engines enables the reduction of all emissions and noise of the berthed ships in the port. Of course, to assess the reduction in total emissions, the entire electricity production value chain has to be considered and, thus, the factors of grid emissions. Research done by the Entec Report has proven that the average efficiency of power stations is much higher than that of the power generators of ships. Using cold ironing instead of bunker fuel reduces on average about 90% NOx, SOx and PM. Even by using a shore connection that is based on a coal plant, the emissions of NOx, SOx and PM would be reduced. Moreover, power plants-generated pollution, including noise and vibrations, is likely to be produced in less densely populated areas than in ports, and thus have lower external costs. Regarding the use of low sulphur fuel, it definitely reduces the SOx emissions of ships but has almost no impact on NOx and CO2. As every port has different assumptions and different grids, Schneider Electric is able to help ports assess the environmental benefits of a shore connection system.
Last but not least, as the primary maritime freight routes are inter-continental, the international standardisation entities have decided to create a single standard for shore connection solutions. The first part of the IEC/ISO/IEEE 80005 standard has been validated in July 2012 and already set major requirements on safety, cables and plugs. Gathered in Los Angeles in April, the standardisation committee is now working on the communication protocol, and Schneider Electric is coordinating the working group to also set a standard for Low Voltage shore connection.
The most established and complete solution
Offering huge environmental benefits and regulation compliance, ports are adopting cold ironing. According to a recent study done by Mathilde De Keukeleire at the Université Catholique de Louvain and supported by Schneider Electric, this technology is already available in approximately 100 merchant berths worldwide. On the ship side, major shipping companies have started retrofitting vessels and most newly built ships are able to use this technology. Proven and standard, shore connection is currently the most advanced alternative solution to low sulphur fuel. If other alternatives are foreseeable, such as LNG as fuel for ships, its deployment is at an early stage and the environmental benefits are still controversial.
For further information, please go to www.schneider-electric.com/shore-connection or Lorene.firstname.lastname@example.org.