Key Insights from our webinar: Ports can be a leader in maritime decarbonisation - across the supply chain

Ports play a pivotal role in the maritime industry's journey towards sustainability. As key nodes in the transportation network, ports have the potential to significantly impact emissions reduction and environmental stewardship. However, realizing this potential requires proactive measures and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders involved.

On May 17, we hosted an engaging webinar on ports and decarbonisation, bringing together influential figures from UK ports and charterers. Among our distinguished guests were:

Rhona Macdonald, Senior Sustainability Advisor at the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)

Grace Staines, Technical Advisor for Air Quality at the Port of London Authority (PLA)

Chris Hughes, Decarbonisation Specialist at Cargill

The webinar was expertly hosted by our Head of Sustainability, Jon Lane. The discussion centered on the critical role of collaboration in driving sustainable change across ports, shipping companies, and charterers, highlighting the unique and powerful role that ports can play in maritime decarbonisation.

Key takeaways from the webinar

1. Mutual Benefits: Aligning investments in efficiency and sustainability can create win-win scenarios for all maritime stakeholders. By working together, ports and charterers can achieve greater efficiencies, reduce emissions, and enhance overall environmental performance.

2. Catalysing Change: Ports hold a unique position as key influencers in the supply chain. They can initiate industry-wide transformation by setting higher standards and promoting sustainable practices, driving the entire maritime sector towards decarbonisation.

3. Strategic Collaboration: Disjointed investments can lead to missed opportunities and fragmented efforts. Strategic partnerships and coordinated efforts are essential to maximize the impact of sustainability initiatives. The webinar emphasized the importance of cohesive strategies and shared goals among all stakeholders.

4. Actionable Insights: Ports can leverage their influence to stipulate entry conditions and establish incentive schemes for greener practices. The discussion provided actionable insights on how ports can use their strategic position to foster sustainable change, including setting clear environmental criteria for port access and offering incentives for ships that meet these standards.


What do you expect to be the "winning" alternative fuel for maritime? And what do you expect to be the fuel mix in 2040 and 2050?
Cargill: Tough question! There are various fuel outlooks and forecasts that have been published; often with different results, however I think it is fair to say that the majority are forecasting a mix of different alternative fuels across the shipping industry for at least the mid-term horizon.

RightShip: There is unlikely to be one singular winning alternative fuel. Instead, it will be a mix of fuels for the different segments as to what is appropriate for each ship, and what fuels are available in the trading patterns they operate on. The evolution of Green Corridors through a maritime ecosystem approach with cooperation between ports, owners, charters and financiers will drive the first stages of this.

If ships move to alternative fuels such as e-methanol, will there still be a requirement for shore power?
PLA: I believe there is a benefit to providing shore -power alongside alternative fuels like e-methanol due to the fluctuation of fuel and energy prices. As the economy becomes more reliant on renewable energy, and if e-methanol prices are higher than electricity, it would be in the operators' interest to utilise shore power to conserve fuel.

Cargill: There are a few other reasons why shore power can/will co-exist alongside alternative fuels:

  • Switching to shore power will also reduce other emissions (eg NOx) which may be beneficial in certain ports.
  • Due to the lower energy density of several alternative fuels, vessel range is often a challenge: so shore power can help extend range.
  • Not all newbuilds with alternative fuels have the capability to consume those fuels in their auxiliary engines.

How can ports tackle the challenge of a future with many different alternative fuels (i.e., LNG, H2, Ammonia, methanol, biofuels...)? Are there problems in the handling of all these different fuels (e.g., space)?
PLA: At the Port of London Authority, working closely with the terminal and vessel operators through the Net Zero Coalition will allow RightShip to tackle some of the challenges of the future fuel mix. By having close working relationships with and between operators, the future fuel mix should become more apparent through trial and research, but we can also work together to create the business case for these fuels. Due to the Port of London Authority being situated in such a densely populated area of the country, space is an issue regarding bunkering and generation facilities on a large scale, hence the need for a business case. There is also the issue of volatility of some of the alternative fuels and the need for water supply in the generation of hydrogen as a fuel. These are just a few issues that need to be considered for bunkering of alternative fuels in port.

How does the UK grid system contribute to the electrification of ports, particularly those near major cities like PLA (Port of London Authority)? Additionally, what clear path do you see for the UK over the next five years to address the electrification of ports?
PLA: UK Power Networks (UPKN) is currently undertaking a project with Marine Zero and LCP Delta on the Thames to understand the future grid demand for shore power in London. We believe this is a crucial project to determine the next steps for shore power as it will quantify the vessel-to-grid benefits and reinforce the business case. The project's outcomes will determine the future approach to electrification in the Thames. Over the next five years, we think talking directly with energy and infrastructure companies is necessary. For instance, UKPN are keen to gather data on future energy demand and encourage a dialog between themselves and ports/terminal operators to see what they can facilitate.

What are the key enablers (e.g., financing, regulatory support, ...) for a port to develop the alternative fuel infrastructure?
PLA: At the PLA, financing through grant awards such as that from Innovate UK allowed us to access the funding for the Zero Emission Infrastructure project we are consortium partner in for a hydrogen powered survey vessel in the Thames. This was the key enabler for the port.

How does it work when terminals supply the electric power to vessels, enabling them to stop all auxiliary engines that use diesel oil. Is this mandatory in any region? Is there any regulation from IMO regarding that issue?
Cargill: While the IMO has not mandated the use of shore power, the EU’s FuelEU Maritime regulation that will come into force from January 1st, 2025 is one example of a regional regulation that mandates the use of shore power for certain ship types/locations. There is some good information available online from the class societies and other sources that provide more detail on this regulation.

RightShip: The introduction of the FuelEU Maritime regulation through the Fit for 55 package, while regional in nature, has the potential to have a spillover effect to other ports in which the vessels trade. This is to say, if a vessel owner has invested in OSP connection provision on the vessel they may seek to use this in the ports that they visit outside of Europe. A number of ports globally have signed the “Shore Power Declaration” with the aim to have shore power provision by 2028, and in the UK specifically the Department for Transport is looking at bringing in regulation for OSP for the British Isles.

What is the ultimate regulation for the use of low emission bunkers, and its deadline to be applied worldwide?
Cargill: The 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships has set targets for the reduction in total carbon emissions and intensities. The IMO is now working on the regulations that will achieve these targets, including the use of low carbon energy sources. More detail is available here: 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships

RightShip: The revised IMO strategy provides a refreshed ambition in line with SBTi to drive towards the ultimate aim of net-zero emissions by 2050. Significantly, it looks at the important short- and medium-term measures and strengthens them in order to bend the curve with a target of 10% and 80% reduction by 2030 and 2040 respectively. The target will apply to all signatories to the regulation once it has been transposed from the strategy into MARPOL. Europe is the leading region currently with its own intensity emissions reduction targets, OSP requirements by 2030, and market-based measures through the EU ETS.

What are the potential health and safety gaps associated with the adoption of new fuels, and how can ports manage these challenges (including knowledge gap) in the medium term?
PLA: This is a hard question to answer at this stage because we are still trying to identify the knowledge gaps and associated hazards due to lack of uptake – at least in our local geography in London. We need to have a dialogue with operators and/or terminals internationally that may already be bunkering alternative fuels and focus on upskilling the workforce.

What do you believe the next steps are to get better government guidance for the net zero pathway?
PLA: At the PLA, we hope our work with the members of the Net Zero Coalition, which includes members of the IMO and the Department for Transport in the UK, will act to provide evidence and support for guidance so that the industry leads the policy.

How does RightShip calculate ship emissions? Is it the full journey or can ports determine the 'boundary'?
RightShip: RightShip’s proprietary emissions calculation software is bespoke for each individual port. A port can define the port boundary (or scope), and within that the points of interest (such as anchorage, berths and terminals), to then track vessels and get an emission inventory output. The purpose of the software tool is to provide an easy –to-use, intuitive emissions profile to remove the heavy lifting for the port or terminal manager so that at a click of a few buttons they can see emissions profile of a particular segment or vessel, at a particular location in port, over a given time period. With this they can focus on diagnosing the key areas for improvement and low hanging fruit, develop and deploy strategy, and then verify improvements as part of the plan-do-check-act environmental management cycle.

What do you mean by ‘best practices’? Does it mean some agreed definitions, standards by all stakeholders? How do we prioritise the best practices?
PLA: At the PLA, we see best practice as: a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption. By this definition, we consider the fact that our vessels run on HVO as best practice due to the results of our academic emissions studies proving reductions in NOx and PM emissions with no impact to performance. I believe “best practices” are likely to vary across vessel types and industries so I do not believe this should be standardised – it should be evidence based.

RightShip: At RightShip we understand that once you have seen one port, you have seen one port. That is to say, each port is unique in profile, geography, location, and the vessels that visit them. However, when it comes to best practice, there are similarities for managing vessel emissions. This includes firstly understanding the issue of where the emissions are coming from and then developing a plan to take action on that. Often the best practices include investigating potential for operational improvements first which requires less CapEx, but does require a development of the engagement between the port and shipping operators to improve efficiencies and reduce redundancy and demurrage where Sail Fast to Wait (SFTW) policies result in higher speeds and emissions across transit and then larger in-port emissions waiting to go alongside. Additional examples of best practice from data insights provided by tools such as RightShip’s MEP include widening of channels to remove bottlenecks in and out of port, slowing down vessels during transiting out of port, and combining insight with other modern tech such as IoT to identify issues with in-port hardware that may have frequent breakdowns impacting or opportunities for efficiency gains thus reducing alongside times. Provision of OSP has the potential for significant impact on in port air quality with reduction of auxiliary engines in port.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this Q&A document by the guest speakers are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of RightShip LLC.