Marine stakeholders: Laws, enforcement and innovation key to trimming emissions

2014-09-11 - Port managers, ship operators, regulators and environmentalists at the world’s largest shipping fair in Hamburg, Germany, said ABB’s vision of a Zero Emissions Port Call is a shared goal that requires rules, enforcement - and innovation.
Hamburg's busy port, site of 2014 SMM - and ABB's panel discussion on the 'Zero Emissions Port Call'
An ABB-organized panel at the 2014 SMM international marine technology fair gathered industry stakeholders and journalists to discuss reducing emissions in port areas.

The aim is to improve quality of life in busy harbors while ensuring their long-term economic strength, since ports are the gateways to global commerce.

ABB has long provided shore-to-ship power for ports in Europe, North America and Asia, helping vessels cut emissions. And the automation and power company is developing solutions to marry energy storage and renewable power with electric propulsion and new marine fuels, to cut pollution and provide fuel-saving benefits for ship owners.

ABB's Eero Lehtovaara, head of the Marine Design House: "From a technological point of view, it's possible today."
“If we want to keep ports in certain areas, in cities like Bremerhaven and Hamburg, we need to do something in order to prevent harmful emissions,” said Eero Lehtovaara, head of ABB’s Marine Design House. “From a technological point of view, it’s possible today.”

Broad group of panelists

In addition to Lehtovaara, panelists were Torsten Klimke, who leads maritime transport and sustainable shipping efforts at the European Commission's Directorate General for Mobility and Transport; Roger Strevens, head of environment for shipper Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics; Uwe von Bargen, Port of Bremen environmental director; Monika Griefahn, chief sustainability officer at AIDA Cruises; and Malte Siegert, environmental policy chief for Germany’s biggest environmental group, Naturschutzbund Deutschland.

Maritime emissions include greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, as well as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and fine particle emissions.

At AIDA Cruises, based in the old Hanseatic port city of Rostock, Germany, initiatives to lower emissions like these are essential, since cruise passengers want their vacations as sustainable as possible. To that end, AIDA has contracted for a low-emission liquefied natural gas barge to supply electricity when its ships dock in Hamburg.

Panelists, from left: Eero Lehtovaara, ABB; Torsten Klimke, European Union; Malte Siegert, Naturschutzbund Deutschland; Monika Griefahn, AIDA Cruises; Roger Strevens, Wallenius Wilhelmsen; and Uwe von Bargen, Port of Bremen
“People want to have clean air, clean water, a nice environment, because if we destroy it, we give up our business model,” said Griefahn, who in 1980 was a co-founder of Greenpeace in Germany.

A level playing field for emissions demands robust enforcement

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, ships sailing in Emission Control Areas in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, coastal areas of the United States and Canada and in the Caribbean must use fuel that produces lower sulfur oxide and particulate emissions, according to the United Nations' International Maritime Organization.

For companies like Wallenius Wilhelmsen, this will require switching to new fuels and emission-scrubbing technology, all of which may add tens of thousands of dollars to daily costs. Though most shipping companies will follow the rules, Strevens said, the financial temptation exists for some to cut corners.

Consequently, Wallenius Wilhelmsen this year joined a group of 15 companies including Maersk, Stena Line and American Roll-on Roll-Off Carrier to form the Trident Alliance. The coalition seeks strict enforcement of sulfur limits, a challenge given ships on global routes sail seamlessly between national jurisdictions.

“There’s an increasing role to be played by officialdom to make sure that the companies are doing what they’re supposed to do - and they will be a majority - are not put at a competitive disadvantage,” Strevens said.

'Sniffers' on the Baltic

The EU's Torsten Klimke told journalists "Shipping has to be competitive, at the same time it has to become more sustainable."
The European Union’s Klimke said he’s heard the call for more-robust policing. Among other things, he said, there are discussions of installing “sniffers” at strategic locations around the Baltic to identify ships that may not be sticking to the rules.

Additionally, Klimke told journalists, Europe is finalizing a directive on alternative transport fuels, including requiring more ports to offer facilities for liquefied natural gas and shore-to-ship power facilities.

On the incentives side, it's offering assistance up to 250 million euros as part of its Horizon 2020 program, largely to facilitate innovative shipping solutions to protect the environment.

“Shipping has to be competitive, at the same time it has to become more sustainable,” Klimke said. “Our long term goals clearly go toward zero-emission shipping and zero-emission ships.”

Ports face dueling forces

Port operators face dueling forces, with customers pushing them to expand operations and efficiency while also facing a steady drumbeat from groups including Siegert’s Naturschutzbund Deutschland to do more to trim emissions from ships that arrive there, as well as from portside activities.

Amid this pressure, von Bargen said the Port of Bremen has embraced a vision of how it aims to look in 20 years’ time. It will be sustainable and technologically advanced, carbon-efficient if not carbon-neutral - not merely because it’s good for the environment, but because it will help ensure his operation’s continued economic viability.

“The port will be proactive for innovation and sustainable economic growth, with controlled resource consumption and an energy supply from renewable sources,” von Bargen said.