Every breath you take – BPO’s air pollution seminar concludes in Gdynia

Mar 05 2019

Every breath you take – BPO’s air pollution seminar concludes in Gdynia

Around 80 participants gathered on March 5th in Gdynia, Poland, to discuss matters related to the issue of air pollution in ports. The seminar, organized by the Baltic Ports Organization, was aimed at evaluating the influence air pollution has on day-to-day operations in ports and cities they are a part of. It also gave an overview of tools available to port authorities in their quest to improve their environmental standards.

Presentations are linked in the text.

It is difficult to tackle a topic as complex as air pollution without being clear about its sources. Emre Aydin (WSP) opened the seminar by listing a number of main offenders, including diesel generators (responsible for electricity generation), oil fired boilers (e.g. used during fuel heating) and cruise ships’ hotelling time during their extensive berthing periods. Aydin also identified some key air quality challenges faced by ports and terminals, among them the need to synergize their actions with other initiatives aimed at reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions and noise or the requirement of meeting various policy and legislation requirements. 

A number of regulations, introduced in the Baltic Sea region (BSR) in the period of 2006-2017 contributed greatly to a major reduction of negative emissions in the BSR. Jan Boyesen (Maritime Development Center), talking about the beneficial impact of clean shipping on overall health quality in the region, mentioned a significant drop (25-40%) in mortality rate linked to emissions from shipping.

The impact of involvement of policymakers in raising environmental standards and forcing change is not to be neglected. Mark Simmonds (British Ports Association) shared his country’s experiences in combating air pollution in ports. Due to pressure from NGO’s and local authorities, the UK Government was forced to take action and decided that all UK ports handling over 1m tonnes per year will be required to produce air quality plans by the end of 2019. This is an extremely tight schedule, considering that no one perfect solution exists and the implemented measures will depend on each ports unique situation. Possibilities for real impact are limited since most of the emissions result from vessels which ports have little control over, therefore cooperation is essential.

A number of possible solutions to reduce air pollution generated by vessels were mentioned during the seminar, among them the introduction of the on-shore power supply and LNG or opportunities presented by coastal and short sea shipping.

Case studies, presented by representatives of the Port of Gdynia, Port of Tallinn, and Port of Helsinki, showcased solutions that can be implemented by port operators to monitor and in turn improve air quality in the area. Transparency was one of the most important aspects of the monitoring process, not only allowing for real-time data to be available to citizens from local communities but also the polluters themselves, thus making it easier to identify problems and address them accordingly. Other solutions, directed at concrete issues, including covering dust-generating commodities with thin layers of celluloses, specialized training for crane operators or regular and thorough sweeping of port areas. It is noteworthy that these actions produced overall positive results, allowing for a decrease in a number of complaints.

Ellen Kaasik, Head of Quality and Environmental Management at the Port of Tallinn, said after the seminar:
"Every port will have different solutions, with only a few of these applicable everywhere. Some measures mentioned during the seminar were OPS or green tariffs, as well as the implementation of low emission port equipment and port vessels. It is important to focus on what works and directly improves air quality. We heard during the seminar that ports are taking responsibility, shown by the various case studies. Best practices and further case studies will be discussed during tomorrow’s meeting of BPO’s Environmental Working Group.”

Aino Rantanen (Wega) pinpointed a number of points paramount to successfully battling air pollution. A good grasp of facts and challenges at hand topped the list, followed by identifying major components and how they can be influenced. Cooperation between entities operating within the port area, as well as between ports was also cited and with good reason – sharing of data, ideas, and experiences is crucial and highly beneficial to solving any problem. Air pollution resulting from port operations isn’t highly regulated, the situation in the UK is an exception rather than the norm. In most cases much depends upon voluntary actions taken by ports and port operators. That said, port regulations can be a good step towards the consolidation of existing goals and regulations, keeping simplicity and transparency in the foreground.

In order to better understand the intricacies of the current situation, one needs to be well informed about a variety of environmental requirements and regulations. Krzysztof Kołwzan (Polish Register of Shipping) highlighted IMO’s upcoming Sulphur cap 2020 and their initial strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships. IMO’s regulations are also an obligation for the ports to promote the use of environmentally compliant fuels and be on the lookout for possible transgressions. Administrative burden is a hurdle which needs to be overcome in order to help smoothen the implementation process of various environmental regulations. Progressive digitalization of the maritime industry can be the deciding factor in easing the administrative burden.

Tying into the issues discussed during the seminar, the BPO Environmental Working Group assembles tomorrow, on March 6th. Members of the group will continue the discussion of matters related to air quality improvement. A number of ports will present their experiences and tools implemented for monitoring of air emissions. Additionally, the participants will tackle issues associated with waste reception infrastructure (port reception facilities) in ports in view of the upcoming meeting of the HELCOM Cooperation Platform on Special Area According to MARPOL Annex IV, to be held at the end of March 2019.

More information about BPO’s work plan and activities focused on environmental topics can be provided upon request by the BPO Secretariat.