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ABL COP26 Conversations: Ports’ role in decarbonising the maritime value chain

Following the recent COP26, ABL Maritime Director Paul Martin and Ports and Harbours Assistant Prahlad Rajhans, discuss the importance of ports in achieving a more sustainable maritime industry.

Looking at recent initiatives and pledges announced regarding ports’ role in clean shipping, they look at the first critical step in tackling port emissions – tracking and understanding a terminal’s full emissions profile.


Ports are an integral part of the shipping value chain, and the nature of their operations makes them a contributor of emissions, both direct and indirect. Air pollutants such as Sulphur Oxides and Particulate Matter have an immediate detrimental effect on public health and local environmental ecosystems, whereas Greenhouse Gases (GHG) such as CO2, Methane and Nitrous Oxides, have a long-term impact on the environment and are responsible for global warming.

The Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors[1],[2] – an outcome of COP26 – aims to establish at least 6 green corridors by the middle of this decade, which cannot happen without the active participation of ports. This comes on the back of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)’s 74th session in May 2019[3] inviting ports to voluntarily contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as part of the IMO GHG strategy[4]. A recent partnership between the GreenVoyage 2050 Project, executed by IMO, and International Association of Ports and Harbour (IAPH)[5] also aims to strengthen the cooperation between ships and ports to reduce GHG emissions. This partnership seeks to support countries through the development of tools for ports to become cleaner and greener.

Whilst green corridors will help ships decarbonise, the ports themselves are responsible for emissions such as from harbour craft, pleasure craft, fishing vessels, cargo-handling equipment, on-road vehicles, and buildings.

Direct emitters – GHG Scope 1 – include seagoing vessels, domestic vessels, pleasure craft, fishing trawlers, cargo-handling equipment, on-road vehicles, and building gas heating systems. Indirect emitters – GHG Scope 2 – include building electric supply, and other parts of the electrical grid like streetlamps, and electric vehicles. These emissions are not visible at the point of use and are often accounted for at the point of the source of the electricity. GHG Scope 3 emissions, however, are emissions that are embedded into the whole value chain which are not under the direct control of the port, for example ships at a berth or emissions from tenants’ cargo handling equipment.

The first step in tackling port emissions is to understand what they are. Producing an inventory, will allow a port to identify sources of emissions and to focus efforts on tackling the worst. Once a record of historical data is established, visual representations of the data can assist to showcase reduction efforts of the port, and to inform capex expenditure going forward.

ABL group is at the forefront of facilitating port emission tracking and in conjunction with Shoreham Port, we have been working on the development of a digital solution to help illustrate a port’s emissions profile. The potential for this solution could be easily transferred and applied to define the carbon footprint of other maritime hubs such as shipyards, offshore assets (e.g. rigs and FPSOs) and offshore wind farms.

“We are delighted to be the first Port to collaborate with ABL Group in their initiative to support ports and harbours in understanding their emissions and environmental footprint. As activity increases at our Port we must continue to reduce our impact and it is key to collect data to inform our sustainability journey. We are thrilled the be playing a part in paving the way for other maritime organisations to track and reduce emissions.”

Cheyenne Plant, Sustainability Manager, Shoreham Port
Aerial footage of Shoreham Port – (c) Shoreham Port.

[1] Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

[2] COP26: Agreement to develop technology for green shipping corridors | New Scientist

[3] MEPC 323 74 (imo.org)

[4] Initial IMO GHG Strategy

[5] WhatsNewNews (imo.org)

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