Shipping emissions in ports: overview, impact and prognosis



Olaf Merk, Administrator Ports and Shipping, the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France


This article gives an overview of shipping emissions in ports in 2011 and the projected levels in 2050 per continent and ship type. Air emissions from shipping are considerable. Various studies have estimated CO2 emissions from shipping to be around 2-3% of total global emissions, 5-10% for SOx emissions, and 17-31% for NOx emissions. These emissions have increased at a large pace over recent decades and are expected to increase rapidly in the future.

Ports are the places where the impacts of shipping emissions are most noticeable. NO2 and CO2 emissions in ports have been linked to bronchitic symptoms, whereas exposure to SO2 emissions is associated with respiratory issues and premature births. Calculations suggest that shipping-related particulate matter emissions are responsible for approximately 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths annually, with most deaths occurring near coastlines in Europe, East Asia and South Asia.

Surprisingly, little is known about ship emissions in ports, as there remains a scarcity of studies covering the topic. This article wants to fill this gap by providing a comprehensive overview of the subject. The ITF has calculated the extent of shipping emissions in ports using data from the Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit on vessel movements in 2011. The database is replete with insight concerning information on the turnaround times of ships in ports and various ship characteristics. In these calculations, various policy measures implemented in ports to mitigate air emissions have been taken into account, such as the EU regulation to use low sulphur fuel at berth, shore power and various fuel switch programmes. Further information on methodology and the dataset used for the calculations is soon to be published by the ITF (please go to the ITF website to view the working paper). According to ITF calculations, shipping emissions in ports are substantial and accounted for 18 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, 0.4 million tonnes of NOx emissions and 0.03 million tonnes of PM10-

Around 85% of these emissions come from containerships and tankers, which is partly explained by their dominant presence in terms of port calls – around three quarters of all calls in ports are by containerships and tankers, and both emit more emissions than would be expected based on the number of port calls. For tankers this is due to their relatively long turnaround time in ports. However, this is not the case for containerships: their time in port is approximately 27% of the port time of vessels, whereas these represent 40% of the calls. So containerships have relatively short stays in ports, but have high emissions during these stays.

The reverse is the case for bulk carriers; they have long turnaround times, but have less emissions during their stay in port. Also, Roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro) ships are relatively clean; representing 8% of port calls and 5% of port time. They only represent 2% of the total shipping emissions in ports (see figure 1).

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