Is Cold Ironing Redundant Now?

shore power
Shore power at the Port of Los Angeles

Published May 23, 2015 7:19 PM by Wendy Laursen

An article in The Post and Courier last week quotes a U.S. port official from Charleston saying that the installation of shore power (cold ironing or alternative maritime power (AMP)) has been rendered a last-generation solution at most major ports. 

State Ports Authority Chief Executive Jim Newsome said ultra-low sulfur fuel and scrubbers have made the air quality improvements touted by shore power obsolete. Newsome has estimated it would cost about $20 million to build shore power into a new cruise terminal planned at the port.

The comments have drawn opposition from a local environmental group whose spokesperson said that both scrubbers and shore power would be the best solution for visiting cruise ships.

Carnival Cruise Lines plans to install scrubbers on the Fantasy, reports The Post and Courier. The cruise ship is home-ported at Charleston, and Ecstasy, which will replace the Fantasy in February, already has scrubbers. Neither ship is equipped for shore power.

A Well-Established Solution

Shore power has been taken up by other North American ports including Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Halifax. Princess Cruises’ shore power program made history when it first began operations in the Alaska capital Juneau in the summer of 2001, and the Port of Seattle was the first in North America to provide infrastructure for two ships to simultaneously utilize shore power.

In addition to recent shore power installations in the Port of San Francisco, the Port of Halifax just commissioned its new shore power equipment last month.  

Seattle: Nothing Compares

“Nothing compares to the benefits of zero emissions by connecting the vessel to shore power and shutting down the vessel’s engines while the ship is at the dock,” says Peter McGraw, spokesman for the Port of Seattle. “We in the Pacific Northwest do have cheaper electricity due to our hydro-electric power generated by dams throughout our state, which may produce a different cost than other parts of the country.”    

Exhaust stack scrubbers have become the current industry wide focus for all cruise brands in efforts to reduce emissions when the vessel engines are running, but investment in shore power systems at ports continues in the U.S., Canada and around the world, he says.

“Most recently we had a visit from the cruise representatives at the new Kai Tak terminal in Hong Kong. He was here to see our shore power operations and meet with local experts on the technology,” says McGraw. Kai Tak Hong Kong terminal is considering investment in shore power connections at their new cruise facility. 

“So all being said shore power does not appear to be dying-out,” says McGraw. “The newest systems are much more advanced than last generation equipment. I’m pleased we have two of our three cruise ship berths in Seattle equipped to serve ships capable of connecting. You just can’t get any better than the zero emissions that come with them.”

Los Angeles: Low Sulfur Fuel still contributes to Emissions

The Port of Los Angeles was the first port in the world to use shore power technology for in-service container ships. Chris Cannon, Director of Environmental Management, Port of Los Angeles, said: “Air quality conditions in Southern California are unique and among the worst in the entire country. Southern California is in “non attainment” for particulate matter 2.5 and “extreme non attainment” for ozone. For this reason, continued reduction in emissions of particulate matter and ozone precursors (NOx, SOx, VOCs) is helpful and necessary.” 

In Southern California, overall emissions, as well as potential health risk, are significantly reduced when using electricity to power ships at berth rather than having the ships run on low sulfur fuel, says Cannon. “Even with low sulfur fuel, ships remain one of the largest sources of pollution in our area, and low sulfur fuel for ships still contains 1,000 ppm sulfur, compared to an average 30 ppm sulfur required for automobile fuel.”

Cannon says the port supports the efforts of the California Air Resource Board to reduce at-berth emissions by setting a regulation that requires a phased shore power program for container ships that started on January 1, 2014.  

Cannon concedes though that the best way to reduce emissions can vary from one port to another.  “While we have funded demonstrations of scrubber technology, we have not yet seen widespread use of this technology in our region. Nevertheless, we believe that scrubbers and shore power can both be used in the future to help reduce emissions.”

Oakland: Looking Forward to Near-Zero Emission Ships

In 2009, the Port of Oakland made a commitment to reduce seaport-related diesel health risks by 85 percent by 2020. “We’ve made significant progress to meet that goal,” says port spokesman Michael Zampa. “As a priority, the port has reduced its seaport emissions from the sources that operate at or nearest the port terminals - the ones that decrease the diesel health risk the most.”  

Ship engines are the largest source of seaport emissions at the port. “It’s critical that we reduce these emissions as much as possible, particularly while at berth,” says Zampa. “This is important to the port, its neighboring communities and the region. For the port, the best day for us will be when we no longer need to use our shore power system because only zero or near-zero emissions ships are operating globally. We will all breathe easier on that day.”
Discussion in the U.K.

The U.S. is not the only nation to voice dissent over the value of shore power. The British Society of Maritime Industries hosted a seminar in London earlier this year that discussed the viability of shore power. Representatives from Cavotec and Schneider Electric argued in favor of shore power, although they recognized that a cost-benefit analysis should be done on a case-by-case basis, reports Hellenic Shipping News.

Peter Selway, marketing manager of Schneider Electric, said that ships could expect a payback time of three years and ports four years if they invested in the technology. It was pointed out that shore power reduces noise and vibration as well as air emissions.

However, another speaker at the conference, Simon Zielonka, fleet director of Royal Caribbean International Cruises, said the costs for shore power could be too high for cruise ships. By comparison, the biggest container ships use the same amount of power as a small cruise ship. He also warned that the technology might just move emissions from the port to the location where the electricity was produced.

Zielonka said that most emissions from ships are produced when they are at sea and estimated that shore power might only reduce emissions by 1-3 percent. He also estimated that it was 10 times more expensive to retrofit a ship for shore power than to include it on a newbuilding.

IMO Considered Shore Power, E.U. Acted

IMO representative Masao Yamasaki said at the conference that the IMO had discussed making shore power mandatory in 2012 but concluded that, at that time, there were not enough ports (only 20, mostly in the U.S. and Scandinavia) that were ready with the technology.

The E.U. has taken a stronger stance by approving Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuel infrastructure in 2014. This directive obliges member states to implement alternative infrastructure networks such as shoreside power technology by December 2025. The E.U.’s TEN-T program has indicated that shore power is an area where funding was available to help with up to 50 percent of the costs of research and 20 percent of the costs of implementation.

Hamburg: A Barge Solution

New ideas are still being developed. The port of Hamburg has taken a less infrastructure-intensive approach to shore power with the commissioning of an LNG-fuelled barge this month that will provide power to cruise ships in the port. The barge works like a floating power plant and, compared to conventional marine diesel with 0.1 percent sulfur content, emits no SOx or soot. Emissions of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide are also significantly reduced. The deployment of the LNG Hybrid Barge could therefore significantly improve air quality in port cities, says Becker Marine Systems.

More Financial Incentives

The Port of Antwerp already offers shore power at its Independent Maritime Terminal, and there are berths where barges can use shore power. Ships are offered financial incentives to use the power, and the port has just introduced further incentives, this time aimed at scrubbers and LNG. 

As of 1 June 2015 Antwerp will grant a discount to seagoing ships that use alternative technology to reduce their particulate emissions. The new discount means that in some cases ships can benefit from a 30 percent reduction in port fees. 

According to spokeswoman Annik Dirkx: “For auxiliaries, the use of cold ironing is still a valid option, because this is not necessarily combined with or connected to the main engine that can run on LNG or with scrubbers. In our port we do case by case project development, which means that we try to accommodate every shipping company’s request the best way we can.”

So What Will Charleston Do?

Charleston has been conducting outdoor air testing at Union Pier since February. The data shows that there have been no emissions above federal guidelines, even when a cruise ship is in port. According to Newsome, there is no significant difference between cruise ship days and non-cruise ship days. He therefore believes that shore power isn’t needed. 

However, contends one environmental activist, discussions are far from over.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.