Pollution has always been a greater concern for everyone these days, especially for the mega industries which consume a lot of power and exude equal or more hazardous emissions into the air. The shipping industry has been equally contributing to it.
Measures had been taken before but nothing could resolve the issues pertaining to pollution. In fact, during the pandemic, the industry suffered a lag. Multiple ships could not leave the port and thus, ports were overcrowded with ships that still used the energy to run. Customers, on one hand, suffered due to delayed deliveries and overpricing; the shipping industry, on the other hand, faced problems with the jam-packed ports, which further added to the existing pollution crisis.
In the U.S, the ports of Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore, which are the largest shipping complex in the Western Hemisphere, have witnessed this issue to an extreme level. As many as 70 ships, often idle at sea, await entry to the port. California Air Resources Board reports that ships that use the Southern California ports have been releasing an additional 20 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air each day. The report further states that the amount of this smog-inducing gas is equivalent to including 5.8 million passenger cars in that area.
This proves severe for the environment and it needs to be addressed. Thus, to tackle the problem of the increased air pollution, the Danish shipping corporation Maersk declared a new project which would help to reduce the air pollution caused by such idling ships at the port.
The usage of charging buoys connected to underwater power cables, can also be called floating power ports is the answer to the problem. These power cables further draw energy from the onshore green renewable resources like wind farms. Stillstrom, an accompaniment to Maersk undertakes this new venture.
TESTING WITH ONE BUOY AT A TIME
A test site off Norway would be launched later this year in collaboration with Ostred, the Danish renewable-energy company.
The venture program manager of Stillstorm, Sebastian Klasterer Toft declares that this buoy would be fully functional by the third quarter of 2022. The idea was pitched in 2020 as well by Maersk which aimed at utilizing the shore power out on sea.
“Our vision is that, following proof of concept, inside 5 years of commercialization we shall be around 50 to 100 ports, including those with wind farms nearby,” says Toft.
He further adds, “This will be the equivalent of displacing 5.5 million tons of CO2.” (That’s an amount roughly equal to the carbon output of about 11 million barrels of oil.) “It also removes all polluting particles associated with idle vessels,”
There is no clear preference to any port in particular but Toft hints at the East and West coasts of the US and Canada by saying that “they are areas of huge interest for us.”
It has been observed that most modern container ships have the capability to connect to the land-based cables and seek power from the onshore resources. This way they can maintain their operations while loading and unloading cargo. But in a case of overcrowding at ports, all the ships are unable to utilize it as they may have to wait for their turn. While waiting in the open sea, they utilize the auxiliary engines to provide the power for the essential shipboard functions. Although these engines emit less pollution than the main engines, they still pollute the environment as some ships may have to wait for a few days or even weeks in the open sea, the floating power ports can be useful in such scenarios.
The shipping industry is one the significant sources of carbon emissions and accounts for approximately 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 10% of vehicular emissions. Studies show that the compounds which the ships emit cause major problems like asthma, cancer, and many other skin-related diseases among the communities which are nearer to these ports. It not only affects the local regions but this pollution adds to many global issues as well.
“It continues to impact the health of millions of people all over the world and leads to a lot of unnecessary death and debilitating lung issues,” stated Paul Blomerus, executive director of Clear Seas, a not-for-profit research center in Canada promoting greener delivery practices.
This new venture may prove productive and eventually would help in managing the air pollution caused by the shipping industry. Maersk has been applauded for this initiative of floating power ports which would help the ships with the access to a power buoy to get the onshore energy. This way they can switch off their main engines even when they are not at the dock.
“ If it works, I think it will be a big step forward for those ships that are able to access electric power instead of running their auxiliary engines because then you go to zero emissions both offshore and at the dock,” says David Pettit, a senior attorney with the NRDC.
But Pettit also doubts whether this venture would prove futile as there are so many problems that still need to be addressed before implementing this operation worldwide.
The shipping industry has shown a significant amount of interest in tackling the issues of pollution. Their plan is to start with one buoy and if it is successful, they will connect more such buoys. After all, it’s the small steps that lead to greater success. It is the first step that matters the most and they have taken that step towards the betterment of the industry along with the willingness to decarbonize and to deal with the issues of air pollution all over the world.