What is onshore power?


An Onshore Power Supply (OPS) can be known as Shore Power, Shoreside Electricity (SSE), Alternative Maritime Power (AMP), High-Voltage Shore Connection (HSCV), or Cold Ironing.

OPS is a rapidly growing weapon in a port’s arsenal to combat emissions. In June 2021, European ports including Antwerp, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Haropa Port and Rotterdam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to “enable maximal deployment” of OPS for its container segments by 2028.

And, the adoption of OPS will increase further as national and international governments look to meet climate goals: in July 2021, the European Commission published an updated FuelEU Maritime set of proposals, to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

The new FuelEU Maritime proposals require all EU ports with over 50 annual containership calls over the past three years to have OPS output to cover at least 90% of that energy demand.

CATEGORY: Environment and Sustainability News

In PTI Journal Edition 105, we analysed some of the key sustainable initiatives ongoing in ports and maritime currently.

What is onshore power?

The European Alternative Fuels Observatory defines OPS as:

Ships can shut down their engines while berthed and plug into an onshore power source, the ship’s power load is transferred to the onshore power supply without disruption to onboard services. Emissions to the local surroundings are eliminated.

A OPS installation typically requires a building, or a shelter, containing the necessary technical equipment that include switchgear, transformers and frequency converters which aim is to adapt the shore electrical characteristics to the ship’s ones ([such as] voltage, frequency)

©European Alternative Fuels Observatory

Along with a reduction in carbon emissions for the vessel and port environment, OPS reduces noise, cost, and improves the working environment of seafarers onboard the vessel.

However, there are several factors that tie into a port and terminal’s investment for OPS: including cost; suitability for a terminal’s common vessel types; and other carbon-cutting technologies available at a port’s disposal.

The Port Technology team takes a look some of the key topics of discussion around ports and OPS.


Cost drivers for investment in an OPS berth can vary significantly, dependent on the port itself and the types of vessel; power draw required; berthing capacity, and several other factors.

The latest estimate for the range of cost in onshore power supply installation varies between €1 million and €25 million for a port, according to the FuelEU Maritime proposals.

Ports seeking to invest in OPS can use the calculation tool here.

Research by EU-funded knowledge exchange platform ONtheMoSway collected several studies on OPS investment: the cost of electricity transportation could range anywhere from $300,000 to $4 million per berth, “depending on the port location, power demand and frequency and vessel type.”

Research found that the Port of Rotterdam’s feasibility study calculated a €4 million ($4.75 million) investment per berth, contrasted with the Port of Gothenberg, which cost €225,000 ($266,500) for two berths.­­­­­

The Port of Gothenberg’s costs were considerably cheaper because of its readily-available high‐voltage power supply (6-20 kilovolts (kV)), the lack of a need for a frequency converter and the limited power requirements of RoRo vessels, for example.

©Port of Gothenburg


In March 2021, the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) released a report to highlight the importance of OPS investment “where it makes sense”.

The report highlighted that terminals that serve passenger, cruise, and certain container segment vessels could be considered to be viable for OPS investment first and foremost – due to the vessels’ longer berthing time and consequently greater amount of carbon emissions when berthing.

The Baltic Ports Organisation told PTI that by 2023, the Baltic Ports will be making “huge investments” in its OPS supply for cruise vessels.

Datasets regarding vessel demand for onshore power (OPS) will be a “crucial precondition” for greater adoption in the industry, ESPO’s General Secretary Isabelle Ryckbost told PTI.

Ports will also need to consider the cost and viability for vessels to fit or retrofit onshore power capabilities into its systems: estimates for shipside modifications can range from $300,000 to $2 million, dependent on vessel size, type, and need for an onboard transformer.

In February 2021, Director of Environmental Management at the Port of Los Angeles Chris Cannon told PTI that the changing dynamics and sizing of shipping vessels a key challenges to clear for ports in the coming years.


As mentioned, the increase in shore power facilities in ports around the world will place a higher demand on power for a port or city power grid.

From 17 to 20 August 2020, the ports of California were directed by state government to halt all onshore power facilities following high demand on the electricity grid due to hospitals dealing with COVID-19, in addition to a lengthy heatwave and wildfires.

On a macro level, ports and cities will need to collaborate in building resilience: through green sourcing of electricity in solar, wind, and or hydroelectric power; smart grids; or battery storage.


An intriguing tenet to keep an eye on in the OPS industry will be the legislative requirements for port-side investments in OPS.

We have seen the FuelEU Maritime proposals which will make OPS utilisation an accommodation requirement by 2030 for EU ports.

In California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has, since 2007, made it mandatory for all incoming vessels to be build to OPS specifications in a bid to reduce state-wide emissions.

In California, fleet operators can use the “limited engine use” compliance approach by shutting off auxiliary engines during 80% of port visits and connecting to grid-supplied shore power instead.

But industry experts have contrasting opinions on requiring vessels to be built to – and utilise – OPS facilities.

“Our experience has been that you only get the high numbers of ships plugging in [to shoreside power] when it’s required,” Chris Cannon, Director of Environmental Management at the Port of Los Angeles, told PTI in February 2021.

In Europe, the Port of Valencia told PTI in March that the use of OPS should be mandator to ensure critical mass of ship adoption.

ESPO General Secretary Isabelle Ryckbost took the opposite view in her interview with PTI in May 2021, arguing that OPS should “work backwards from ambitious emission reduction goals, and then apply OPS where applicable.”

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