Clean en­ergy is a dif­fi­cult goal for Europe’s busiest ter­mi­nal – but it is tak­ing steps to en­cour­age its use

The National - News - - BUSINESS IN DEPTH - Reuters

In Rot­ter­dam, ships from around the world cruise in and out of Europe’s busiest port, a bustling in­dus­trial hub that em­ploys al­most 200,000 peo­ple and pro­duces 20 per cent of the Nether­lands’ cli­mate-chang­ing gases.

As Rot­ter­dam tries to cut its emis­sions – in line with global goals to curb global warm­ing – ship­ping emis­sions are a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge, not least be­cause many fall out­side the tar­gets set by the Paris Agree­ment to curb cli­mate change. But the city’s bustling port is start­ing to take them on.

It has in­tro­duced fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for fume-belch­ing ships and other port fa­cil­i­ties to in­vest in re­new­able power, with the aim of slash­ing the port’s car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from ship­ping and in­dus­try by 49 per cent by 2030. By 2050, emis­sions would fall 90 per cent, in line with na­tional tar­gets, ac­cord­ing to the plan.

The goals fit along­side new ef­forts by the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­gan­i­sa­tion – the United Na­tions body that reg­u­lates ship­ping – to cut ship­ping emis­sions, which were not part of the Paris Agree­ment. In April the IMO, un­der pressure from low-ly­ing is­land states, for the first time set a tar­get of slash­ing emis­sions by at least 50 per cent by 2050, com­pared to 2008.

Such ef­forts will have im­pli­ca­tions be­yond Rot­ter­dam, with 90 per cent of global goods cur­rently trans­ported by ship and in­ter­na­tional ship­ping re­spon­si­ble for 2.2 per cent of green­house gas emis­sions – the same to­tal as Ger­many, ac­cord­ing to the IMO.

“Ev­ery sec­tor needs to do its bit to con­trib­ute to the fight against cli­mate change,” said Natasha Brown, a spokes­woman for the IMO.Rot­ter­dam is one of more than 25 ci­ties, from South Korea’s Seoul to Medellin in Spain, that have pledged to buy only zero-emis­sion buses by 2025 and take other steps to make ma­jor ar­eas of their ci­ties zero emis­sion zones by 2030.

Each is go­ing about achiev­ing the goal in its own way. But be­cause ci­ties ac­count for about three quar­ters of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the UN, and con­sume more than two thirds of the world’s en­ergy, whether they suc­ceed or fail will have a huge im­pact on whether the world’s cli­mate goals are met.

In Rot­ter­dam, green­ing port fa­cil­i­ties that are heav­ily re­liant on fos­sil fu­els – and home to five large oil re­finer­ies – is a first big task.

“Do­ing noth­ing is not an op­tion,” said Caro­line Kroes, pro­gramme lead of the en­ergy tran­si­tion strat­egy at the port. But mak­ing port fa­cil­i­ties greener must be com­bined with ef­forts to cut global ship­ping emis­sions, she said.

“The Paris Agree­ment is not pos­si­ble if any­one stays be­hind. Ev­ery­one will have to move and change,” Ms Kroes said.

In a bid to en­cour­age cleaner ship­ping, the port has in­tro­duced fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for low or zero-car­bon ves­sels, in­clud­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal ship index, which be­gan mea­sur­ing the emis­sions of in­di­vid­ual ships last year.

Since July 2017, all ships that dock at Rot­ter­dam port have re­ceived a score out of 100 based on how much ni­tro­gen ox­ide and sul­phur ox­ide they emit – and car­bon diox­ide was added to the mix this year. Us­ing the index, the port of­fers dis­counts on port costs to the clean­est ships.

Mak­ing ships and port pro­cesses more ef­fi­cient is also key to slash­ing emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to Ms Kroes. “Im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency means you need less fuel, so you save costs and re­duce emis­sions at the same time,” she said.

One way that is hap­pen­ing is by bet­ter co-or­di­nat­ing ship ar­rivals and de­par­tures, to cut

wait­ing time. This year the port launched Pronto, a dig­i­tal plat­form where ship­ping com­pa­nies and ser­vice providers can ex­change in­for­ma­tion about their port vis­its.

That in­for­ma­tion ex­change alone is ex­pected to re­duce wait­ing times for ships and cut emis­sions by up to 20 per cent, ac­cord­ing to Leon Willems, a port spokesman.

If ships on av­er­age spent 12 hours less in har­bour, cli­mate-chang­ing emis­sions from their vis­its would fall by 35 per cent, ac­cord­ing to a study this month by the Port of Rot­ter­dam Au­thor­ity.

Fully elec­tric sea ships are not yet on the hori­zon in the Nether­lands, as they are still costly to make and equip­ment to ser­vice them on shore is not yet in place, Ms Kroes said.

But ves­sels that op­er­ate on rivers and other in­land wa­ter bod­ies in the Nether­lands are mov­ing in that di­rec­tion. This year the port of Rot­ter­dam formed a part­ner­ship with Skoon En­ergy, a Dutch startup that helps ex­ist­ing ships switch from fos­sil fuel en­gines to elec­tric propul­sion.

The start-up builds recharge­able bat­tery packs, known as Skoon­boxes, that can be fit­ted on com­bined diesel-elec­tric ves­sels. The port is help­ing the com­pany es­tab­lish a net­work of charg­ing hubs for the swap­pable bat­ter­ies.

More and more com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing in hy­brid-fuel ships, with both elec­tric en­gines and diesel gen­er­a­tors to cut their costs and their emis­sions, said Skoon En­ergy founder Peter Paul van Voorst.

“We see peo­ple switch­ing [to hy­brid ves­sels] for var­i­ous rea­sons: ef­fi­ciency, re­li­able qual­ity of the fuel and sus­tain­abil­ity. It is a no-brainer to have a clean ship. It’s a bet­ter busi­ness case,” Mr van Voorst said.

Among those mak­ing the switch is Dutch com­pany Da­men Ship­yards Group, which is try­ing out the Skoon­boxes over the next few months aboard the 110-me­tre diesel-elec­tric MS Borelli,a ves­sel that trans­ports con­tain­ers be­tween the ports of Rot­ter­dam and Hen­gelo, a city in the eastern Nether­lands.

“The Skoon­box, ac­com­pa­nied with a net­work of charg­ing hubs, will al­low for full elec­tric sailing. It is one of many ways to shift the ship­ping in­dus­try to­wards clean so­lu­tions,” said Solco Rei­jn­ders, pro­gramme man­ager for in­no­va­tion at Da­men Ship­yards.

He said he “would not be sur­prised that in 10 to 15 years [much of] the ship­ping in­dus­try has shifted to com­pletely emis­sions-free op­er­a­tions”.

Reach­ing the IMO’s tar­gets to cut ship­ping emis­sions will be costly and take in­vest­ment from both gov­ern­ments and pri­vate, ex­perts said.

“Build­ing on­shore in­fra­struc­ture is def­i­nitely the govern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. Ports are not go­ing to build this, as it is in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive,” said Jo­han de Jong, in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions man­ager at the Mar­itime Re­search In­sti­tute Nether­lands.

Help may be on the way. This year, the Dutch govern­ment al­lo­cated €1.25 mil­lion (Dh5.23m) for in­no­va­tive ship­ping projects, and in 2019 it is ex­pected to un­veil a new Green Deal to pro­mote sus­tain­able ship­ping.

But more eco­nom­i­cally vi­able so­lu­tions are needed to en­cour­age ship own­ers and op­er­a­tors to adopt low or zero-car­bon prac­tices, Mr van Voorst said.

“It is up to the re­new­able en­ergy side to be­come a cheaper al­ter­na­tive,” he said.

“That is what it even­tu­ally comes down to: is it cheaper to go clean or go dirty?”

The port of Rot­ter­dam con­trib­utes 20 per cent to the Nether­land’s cli­mat­e­change gases Alamy

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