European Green Deal and OPS development discussed during BPO’s first online event

Jun 03 2020

European Green Deal and OPS development discussed during BPO’s first online event

Baltic Ports Organization’s (BPO) first online event concluded yesterday, gathering over 60 participants and sparking interesting discussions about the impact of the European Green Deal (EGD) on the port sector, as well as the challenges and benefits surrounding the implementation of shore power in ports.

It was reassuring to hear, that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will not have any noticeable effect on the implementation of the EGD. It was mentioned, that a recent recovery communique, issued by the European Commission (EC), sees the green transition as a part of the recovery package. As such, the transition will not be slowed down due to the current situation. Some concerns were voiced by the audience, as to whether arising health and safety aspects will have a greater influence on the initiative. These are not being neglected and will be addressed by the EC’s Recovery Plan for Europe.

The EGD itself should not be seen simply as an environmental programme. It is a New Growth strategy, aimed at transforming the way we produce and consume. Important keywords to look out for when taking a closer look at the EGD are mainstreaming, promising to include sustainability in all EU policies, as well as financing, stating that no one will be left behind.

Some of the EGD’s proposals however raise question marks. One of them means to make shore power usage for docked ships obligatory. It remains unclear whether this implies ports to install shore power at all berths. A proposal particularly for the Baltic region is the modal shift of a substantial part of road transport to rail and inland waterways. As of now, short sea shipping is not being considered as a sustainable transport alternative, although there are voices within the EC suggesting that this view might change.

The EGD could greatly affect fossil fuel ports, at the same time creating opportunities for ports already acting as renewable energy hubs or those working towards this goal. The initiative will have a significant impact on the industry as a whole, indirectly affecting ports, which often act as industry hubs. Consumption patterns may change as well, shifting production to local areas and in turn influencing existing distribution channels. ‘Greening’ of shipping should also be mentioned, as it often brings up the question of which stakeholders are the ones to bear the costs of necessary investments.

The latter point served as a good segway into the discussion concerning the current state of development of shore power. All of the speakers mentioned high investment costs related to implementing shore power technology in ports, oftentimes meaning, that despite the clear benefits, it still remains a difficult business case. The cost effectiveness of on-shore power supply (OPS) tech depends on good cooperation between the ports and fleet owners, with the former usually carrying the initial investment costs linked to the development of necessary infrastructure.

The Baltic Sea region (BSR) has seen a fair share of OPS development in the past years, with multiple ports offering shore power to berthing vessels. These serve a number of different vessel types, including ferries, RoRo/RoPax vessels, tugs, oil and product tankers, as well as cruise ships. 10 new OPS installations have been constructed since 2016 and more are planned in Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm and Ystad.

Asked about whether OPS is the go-to solution for combating air emissions and noise pollution, the majority of the audience, as well as the speakers, were of the same view. Shore power certainly allows for significant reductions in both air and noise pollution, as shown by case studies offered during the event. That said, it is not the only option, with ports experimenting with other technologies, e.g. those based on ammonia and hydrogen as truly sustainable fuels, or liquefied natural gas (LNG), which can serve as a transition fuel. It is also important to keep in mind that OPS remains a long-term investment and can pose a viable business case if considered that way.

The webinar proved to be BPO’s successful, first foray into the world of online events and there are certainly more to come in the future. In the meantime, should you have missed it, you can head to our YouTube channel (don’t forget to follow us!) and rewatch the whole stream under the following link.