Driving down emissions at ports
Alan Lewis, director of the Global Emissions Logistics Council (GLEC) at Smart Freight Centre, looks at how ports can get better at driving down emissions.
Freight transport enables today’s global economy; materials and manufactured products are transported from region to region along increasingly lengthy and complex transport chains, often involving more than one mode of transport, being processed and stored at warehouses and transferred at ports and terminals along the way.
The Paris Climate Agreement was a wakeup call that brings home the challenge facing the global economy if substantive climate change impacts are to be avoided.
Against a background in which greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and especially freight transport and logistics, are estimated to be increasing, the ITF has suggested that a 19% reduction in total GHG emissions from the logistics sector as a whole is required to limit the temperature rise to 2°C. However, with predictions that the total amount of freight transport will double the minimum required, improvement in emission intensity is 40%. If we are to aim for a better outcome then the improvement in emission intensity needs to be more ambitious – anywhere up to an 80% reduction in emission intensity.
Whilst this sounds, and indeed is challenging, various studies have suggested that this is technically possible, depending on a combination of technology, operational and behavioural changes. The size of the challenge is such that all elements within the transport chain will be expected to contribute their utmost to the overall reduction.
Putting aside these global pressures, there is a clear benefit for any organisation to reduce its emissions because of the direct correlation between their energy consumption and the greenhouse gases emitted. Because energy is a significant cost element, most well-managed businesses will already be collecting much of the information necessary to calculate and manage their direct energy use and hence report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Hence the challenges are:
▪ Improving knowledge about how to calculate and report GHG emissions correctly
▪ How to use the information to reduce emissions
Action in ports and terminals
Whilst many individual entities have monitored their own energy use for the reasons above, until relatively recently the contribution of ports and terminals to overall logistics emissions has not been high on the radar for many. This is largely because the contribution for an individual handling activity can represent a relatively small proportion of the emissions within the full transport chain. However, with so much global freight and the overall pressure to reduce emissions, no business sector will be able to escape a minimum level of scrutiny in the future.
As a result, pressure has mounted to develop comprehensive emission calculation and reporting methodologies suitable for use in the ports and terminals sector that are aligned with mainstream, global practices. For the past few months, collaborative efforts have been ongoing to update the EEEG guidelines first developed in 2012 to provide container terminal operators with advice and instruction on the elements to be included and excluded in reporting greenhouse gas emissions, as part of terminal-level carbon footprinting and analyses.
This work took place in cooperation with the FEPORT Environment, Safety and Security Committee. The guidelines are now published at: http://www.smartfreightcentre.org/main/info/information
SFC’s role has been to ensure this update is, as far as possible, aligned with global GHG emission accounting standards. As a result, the revised EEEG guidance will be referenced as a base methodology in the next update of the GLEC Framework for Logistics Emissions Methodologies. This benefits GLEC as it provides an industry-recognised methodology with a status equivalent to the other transport modes; the benefit for the industry is that it puts container terminal operators’ GHG emission reporting on the same basis as the other modes, which has not been the case until now.
As a reminder, Smart Freight Centre (SFC) formed the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) in 2014 as voluntary partnership of companies, associations and green freight programs committed to the harmonised calculation and reporting of emissions from logistics operations. The publication of GLEC Framework v1.0 in June 2016 was seen as a crucial step towards targeted emissions reduction within the logistics sector.
Using the guidelines
The reduction of carbon emissions remains one of the top priorities for terminal and port operators. With this in mind, and as an early test of the EEEG guidelines, the Rotterdam Terminal Operators’ Association (VRTO) set out to work with itsmembers to understand the impact of recent investments in new electrically-powered terminal equipment alongside changes in container throughput.
VRTO members were able to review their business decisions, throughput and energy use and come up with a back calculation of emissions in 2008, 2011 and 2014. As a result of this work, verified by an external auditor, they found that the average GHG emission intensity per container decreased by 18% over the six-year period.
The shift from fossil fuels (Scope 1) to electricity (Scope 2) also shifts emission from the local area, and offers the opportunity for future emission reduction through the purchase of increasingly clean electricity. The change of the period 2008-2014 are shown in Figs 1 and 2
One note of caution though: total GHG emissions have still increased in spite of the improved efficiency per container because the total number containers handled increased significantly. However, the increase in emissions is much less than the increase in number of containers handled. This emphasises the challenge of decreasing total GHG emissions to meet future targets while freight traffic volumes continue to increase. Nonetheless, the data shows that progress can and already has been made in this regard through electrification. The challenge becomes the extent to which electrification can be expanded and what other measures can be deployed.
Measuring GHG emissions allows VRTO members to set a baseline for GHG emissions for the coming years, track their efficiency over time, base future decisions on actual GHG emission data and to ‘check’ the improvement decisions they made.
The hope is that many more will follow suit. With that in mind it is worth readers being aware of the online reporting platform at https://spm-terminals.com/ that provides data template for the input and analysis of emissions over time.
For terminals that don’t have their own systems in place this may provide an opportunity to calculate and track emissions over time without having to make the up-front investment in a system of their own.
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