The digital revolution to tackle air quality at ports

Recognising the need for climate action, the IMO has mandated targets of carbon intensity reduction of 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050, complemented by a minimum absolute reduction of 50% by 2050. 

At COP26, 22 countries signed the Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors - specific trade routes between major port hubs where alternative, low and zero-emission fuels will be progressed. Since the launch at COP26, countries, ports and companies have made more than 40 announcements under the Green Shipping Challenge at COP27 on issues such as innovation for- ships, expansion in low- or zero-emission fuels, and policies to help promote digital tools to support the uptake of next generation of vessels for maritime operational excellence. 


Green shipping corridors will serve as pilots to demonstrate how key ecosystems, including regulatory sandboxes for new fuels, green financing, information sharing, and carbon accounting mechanisms can be brought together to provide practical ways to decarbonise the maritime industry. Achieving a stage of maturity where future fuels can be deployed across green shipping corridors will assist in accelerating decarbonisation for the wider maritime industry. 

Within these pilots, there is opportunity for ports to harness the power of big data and digital solutions to tackle air quality and greenhouse gas reduction challenges. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart digital systems, digital twins, predictive analytics and blockchain there is the potential for increased data flows, information sharing and collaboration amongst stakeholders. Implementation of the green and digital shipping corridors between ports around the world not only has the potential to catalyse and drive investment in new green infrastructure, delivering economic benefits and complementing efforts at the IMO to support the decarbonisation and digitalisation transition for international shipping, but will also contribute towards the urgent climate goals by improving air quality and public health of local port communities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed industry’s appetite and acceptance of digital solutions. Exploiting insights from big data and digitalisation can further enhance intermodal connectivity in the supply chain across different transport modes at national and supra-national level. These data insights can drive vessel operational efficiency improvements in line with IMO regulations, advances in vessel management and support air quality improvements in ports. 

This paper outlines the important role of utilising data and the insights they provide to tackle air quality and greenhouse gas reduction challenges at ports. And, through a set of case studies, demonstrate how innovative digital revolution can help identify opportunities to remove hotspots in supply chains and improve operation efficiency to support future-ready sustainable ports and bring economic, social and environmental benefits to local port communities. 


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