The Resurgence of Alternative Maritime Power
Maritime, just like other industries, is striving to find better ways to protect the environment. Some even turn their heads back to find inspiration in history. For instance, when steam-powered ships used to let their boilers go cold while it was at berth it was called cold ironing, a practice still alive today. How can it help lower the negative environmental impact of ships? And is it the road to the future or is it best left in the past?
What is AMP and why it matters?
When ships dock at a port, they still need to keep their engines running to maintain lights, heating, cooling and other essential vessel functions. This causes harmful emissions that have a negative impact on the air in the port as well as increases noise levels and vibrations.
Alternative Maritime Power (AMP) or cold ironing is a practice of supplying electrical power to ships from the shore while they’re docked. This way ships get to turn off their auxiliary diesel engines, reducing 95 % of air emissions. The other 5 % is used during the roughly 30 to 40 minutes it takes to plug (and then unplug) the vessel to the power source at berth. What is more, this alternative allows shipowners to save on fuel costs.
According to DNV GL, investments in cold ironing have seen an increase in recent years. This gives hope that AMP could become a standard practice, keeping the air in ports and surrounding areas cleaner. There are already a number of ports offering AMP in various parts of the US and Asia and a growing number in the European Union. The latter plans to have European ports offering shoreside power to ships by 2025.
It’s Not All Positive
Even if this procedure is highly beneficial, there are quite a few costs involved in implementing it. To accept power cables from a ship, ports must have conduits, plug infrastructure and additional electrical capacity, that differs considerably, depending on the size of the vessel requiring power. The design and construction of a terminal able to provide shoreside power is a bigger investment than a traditional infrastructure. Retrofit is required for ships as well. Vessels must have the necessary electrical equipment to receive AMP while at port.
Not only that but while using shore-based power vessels may lose out on the money saved when reducing fuel consumption. The savings depend on the amount paid for the electricity provided by the port. Which brings up another important concern from an environmental point of view.
The electricity generated in ports may come from power stations using oil or coal, resulting in the pollution problem being transferred inland rather than solved. Although, some ports are boasting of green energy supply. For example, Port of Amsterdam is investing in the production and storage of renewable energy, co-owning a wind farm in the Afrikahaven area and planning to have a 100,000 square-metre solar array by 2020. Similarly, Port of Long Beach will have Toyota build a megawatt-scale carbonate fuel cell power generation plant with a hydrogen fuelling station. Powered by bio-waste it will rely on 100 % renewable power.
For all its faults, though, the AMP system is the right way to go for a greener maritime future, that makes the air in ports and surrounding areas cleaner, benefiting the health of the people and the environment.