The LNG advantage
In the first of a series of reports on sustainable cruise ports, Michele Witthaus talks to Jordi Vila of the Port of Barcelona about how the port’s environmental initiatives benefit cruise operators.
As one of Europe’s busiest hubs for cruise traffic and tourism, the Port of Barcelona is no stranger to sustainability pressures. With ever larger vessels scheduling calls, there is growing concern regarding the local environmental impacts of the cruise sector, from air emissions to waste disposal and more.
In 2016, a total of 121 cruise ships visited the Catalan capital, representing more than 750 calls and bringing 2.6 million cruise passengers to the city. According to research conducted by the Barcelona Regional Urban Development Agency, cruise ships emit around 700 tonnes of NOx and 60 tonnes of PM10 annually, generating 1.2% of the city’s air pollution by NOx and 0.23% of its PM10 levels. They account for 12% of the emissions from Barcelona’s port activity.
In November 2016, the Port of Barcelona unveiled an ambitious Air Quality Improvement Plan, which aims to reduce harmful emissions from port activities by encouraging and facilitating the use of LNG for visiting vessels. Cleaner ships also receive discounts on port fees.
The focus on LNG is of particular interest to the cruise sector, which is under pressure to reduce its environmental impact. Many operators see LNG as a solution for the medium term, since it can provide reductions of 80% in NOx emissions for ships while eliminating particulate and SOx emissions.
The growth in design and retrofit of vessels for LNG means that ports which can offer a reliable supply of the fuel are particularly attractive to cruise customers. With a substantial existing LNG infrastructure dating back decades, Barcelona has a strong advantage over many other ports in this regard. Having entered service in 1969, the port’s Enagás regasification plant is the oldest working plant of its kind in Europe and with a capacity of almost 840,000 m3, it is well equipped to keep up with demand. Enagás is a regulated company which specialises in the storage of the gas, which will be provided to cruise operators by the main fuel companies active in the region.
With European funding from the CORE LNGas hive project, flexible cryogenic loading arm will be installed at the plant to pipe LNG to barges, which will supply the fuel to larger vessels. The intention is to allow major cruise customers such as Carnival Corporation (whose new cruise terminal opens in the port in 2018) and MSC Cruises to fuel their fleets from dedicated barges, with other operators likely to follow suit. Shell, Repsol, Cepsa, Total and Gas Natural Fenosa are just some of the suppliers active at the site. The first of the barges is currently under construction at Zamakona shipyard in Bilbao, for delivery in early 2019.
“The Port of Barcelona is very well positioned to become an LNG supply hub,” says Jordi Vila, head of environment at the port. Mr Vila describes LNG as “the option chosen by the cruise industry,” adding: “Three years ago cruise lines would not even consider LNG as an option. Now all major cruise operators have ordered LNG vessels or are planning to do so. Their strategy is focused on this alternative fuel.” The port is focusing on three main aspects: rolling out the infrastructure for LNG bunkering; pilot projects to prove LNG performance and efficiency; and regulation. The supply of LNG to cruise vessels will commence from 2018.
Lowering emissions by providing alternative fuel options is just one element of Barcelona’s green cruise strategy. The port is also working towards changes in its legal provision for environmental discounts, to offer up to 40% rebates for sustainable behaviour (up from the current 5% maximum).
Another part of the strategy is the sharing of information on the real impact of cruise activity, based on technical and scientific data, says Mr Vila. Together with the Faculty of Nautical Studies at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, the port is engaged in ongoing research into the actual environmental performance of cruise ships in its waters. Data is gathered from specific vessels on a range of subjects, from engine use to fuel consumption and other aspects of port stays.
“All this data has permitted us to estimate emissions more accurately,” says Mr Vila. “What’s interesting for me is that at the end we know the kilowatts per hour for all the calls. We also know the percentage accounted for by main propulsion, auxiliary engines, hotel services, and manual manoeuvring when the vessel is not yet berthed. It’s specific for each vessel and although this is an estimation, it is based in real matter.” The information gathered is shared with the cruise lines as aggregated data to protect confidentiality.
“As a port, we adopt a neutral position with a sound scientific basis,” explains Mr Vila. “We have acknowledged that there is a negative perception growing towards cruises, which are seen as highly pollutant. We try to be aligned with the cruise industry so that we work on the same type of solutions.”
Longer-term projects to help reduce emissions in port include the provision of shorepower connections to cruise customers, to allow vessels to switch off their main and auxiliary engines while at berth. “We are working on that because the new cruise ships of the future will ask for it,” says Mr Vila.
As more cities impose restrictions on the use of diesel in their port areas, he sees the pressure growing to provide cold ironing facilities to vessels that are still using diesel. He describes shorepower as a ‘complementary’ solution with various practical challenges to local implementation.
“Using electricity from the network is very expensive and it is not economical or practical to make an infrastructure for shorepower supply because the price of the power is high and the electrical sector in Spain is very regulated. You have to connect when the electrical distribution company decides – and you can’t connect from an electrical substation. Plus you have to pay whether or not you use the connection. The investment and the OPEX are very high.”
One alternative is to source hydroelectric power from the sea. “Per kilowatt hour on land, 60% of the price is fees and only 40% energy. If we generate power from the sea, we can save these fees,” says Vila. Discussions are underway about the potential for a dedicated generation plant. “We are awaiting the possibility to connect without passing by the distribution grid,” he concludes.
Last but by no means least, waste reception facilities for cruise facilities are another important area of focus for the port. Partnerships with Servicios Flotantes Otto Schwandt, Ecomarpol, Ecoimsa and TMA enable it to provide cruise customers with services required under MARPOL V (solid waste) and MARPOL 1 (liquid oil, bilge and sludge).
Reporting on sustainability
As well as being certified by ISO 14000, the port is registered with the Eco-Management and Audit System (EMAS) and the EcoPorts Port Environmental Review System (PERS). Every year it publishes a comprehensive Environmental Declaration in accordance with EMAS.
Regular estimation of the port’s supply chain carbon footprint data is undertaken according to the Port de Barcelona Ecocalculator, a tool for calculating CO2 emissions.
Since 2014, the port has worked together with terminals and service operators on the BCN Zero Carbon project, which maintains an inventory of GHG emissions from activities related to the passage of goods through the port.
The port also produces fact sheets on topics specific to its cruise operations, such as water quality and ballast water management, for distribution to cruise operators and others.