Pollution stakeholders discuss challenges

BPO seminar The BPO seminar looked at air pollution issues such as policy and implementation challenges. Credit: BPO

A recent seminar has evaluated the influence air pollution has on day-to-day operations in ports and cities and highlighted tools available to port authorities seeking to improve their environmental standards.

Organised by the Baltic Ports Organisation, the seminar in Poland was opened by Emre Aydin, from engineering consulting firm WSP. He listed a number of main pollution offenders, including diesel generators responsible for electricity generation, oil fired boilers and cruise ships’ hotelling time during their extensive berthing periods.

Mr Aydin also identified some key air quality challenges faced by ports and terminals, among them the need to synergise 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.

UK experience
The impact of involvement of policymakers in raising environmental standards and forcing change is not to be neglected, approximately 80 delegates at the seminar on 5 March were told. Mark Simmonds, head of policy and external affairs at the British Ports Association) shared the UK's experiences in combating air pollution in ports, discussing the UK government's decision that all UK ports handling over 1m tonnes per year will be required to produce air quality plans by the end of 2019.

Considering the tight schedule and that implemented measures will be different for every port, delegates heard that 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

Case studies, presented by representatives of the Ports of Gdynia, Tallinn, and 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. 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."

Aino Rantanen, senior specialist at independent energy service company 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, he emphasised. In most cases much depends upon voluntary actions taken by ports and port operators. However, he pointed out that port regulations can be a good step towards the consolidation of existing goals and regulations, keeping simplicity and transparency in the foreground.

The seminar also touched on the variety of environmental requirements and regulations in existence. Krzysztof Kołwzan, manager of the machinery and equipment department at the Polish Register of Shipping, highlighted IMO’s upcoming sulphur cap 2020 and its initial strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships. He said that IMO regulations are also an obligation for the ports to promote the use of environmentally compliant fuels and be on the lookout for possible transgressions, but administrative burden is a hurdle which needs to be overcome in order to help smoothen the implementation process of various environmental regulations. Progressive digitalisation of the maritime industry can be the deciding factor in easing the administrative burden, he added.

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