IAPH webinars highlight energy transition challenges for ports

A terminal at the Port of Kobe, who will host the IAPH 2025 World Ports Conference

Scale of challenge to electrify ports using renewable energy sources superseded by regulatory hurdles and opportunity costs of capital

This week IAPH together with media partners Mercator Media hosted two sessions of a Webinar covering all time zones entitled “Ports and the Electricity conundrum – what will it take to meet demand”, with a combined total of over three hundred registered viewers from the maritime, ports and energy sectors.

Speaking on behalf of ports’ ultimate customers, Nelson Mojarro of the International Chamber of Shipping provided context on just how much power would be demanded by ships from ports in the future. Ports and future hubs near ports which produce green hydrogen from solar and wind renewable energy as well as hydro-electric power, store and then export that fuel by liquid bulk carriers “will become part of a new and unprecedented level of electricity demand.” Citing latest IEA data, Mojarro confirmed that at 5-10% of overall hydrogen demand by 2050, shipping and ports will be a relatively minor user of hydrogen-based fuels, but a key enabler of transporting these low and zero carbon fuels from source to consumption.

As two of the largest global energy integrators for industry, both GE Vernova and Schneider Electric cited their own work with port sector. GE Vernova stated in their recent whitepaper “Managing Energy at ports” that depending on traffic at a port at a given time, peak power needs can exceed baseload demand by a factor of 10 to 20 or more, if multiple ships are berthed alongside requiring load/discharge operations and onshore power.

Schneider Electric recently led a study by the New Energies coalition in which ports, terminal, energy providers, terminal and logistics operators were surveyed to assess decarbonisation potential and electrification needs of a bi-directional land-sea-land corridor spanning from Singapore to France. In the study it was cited that if all energies moved to full electric energy, the electrical grid of the terminal must increase its capacity and must be multiplied with a factor of between five to six.

Innovators in the sector also presented their solutions. Core Power provided an explanation on how new nuclear technologies could by as early as 2030 be integrated in floating structures and ships to provide both energy resilience and zero emissions, even opening up the possibility to “reverse cold ironing” with the landside grids receiving rather than supplying energy. Natpower Marine explained their innovative plans to develop the UK’s first commercial electric ship (e-ship) charging network to support electric propulsion and cold ironing at a network of ports in the UK and Ireland. This will be based on a subscription model: a network of clean energy charging infrastructure supported by over 15GW of clean energy GigaParks projects the company is developing in the UK, with 60GWh of battery storage capacity to handle peak demand spikes.

The webinar was rounded off by feedback on the presentations from IAPH members from the ports of Los Angeles, Vancouver, Antwerp-Bruges and Barcelona, all of whom shared their varied experiences in coping the electricity conundrum when implementing onshore power at berth.

Summarising the webinar interventions, IAPH Communications Director Victor Shieh commented: “The sustainable electricity provision challenge for ports is not just one that involves the scale of electricity needed and the huge amounts of investment required. The experts have stated that the technology is already available now or in the very near future to provide a number of different solutions to suit each port which will vary in each case. However in many places around the world the main barriers are regulatory where legislation has been unable to keep up to speed with the demands of the energy transition. Work between public and private stakeholders, including port authorities as enablers, will be crucial if these regulatory barriers are to be lowered enabling the sector to push the dial forward on energy transition. Such progress in this field was first seen in California over twenty years ago, the results of which are evident in the scale of investments in decarbonising port operations and the adoption of obligatory onshore power for vessels calling at ports such as the Port of Los Angeles.”

Note: This topic will be examined further detail at the upcoming IAPH 2024 World Ports Conference in Hamburg where three site visits have been arranged by Hamburg Port Authority and organiser Mercator Media for a limited number of attendees to existing onshore power at berth facilities at cruise and container terminals, and a fourth to the planned HafenCity cruise terminal currently under construction in the centre of Hamburg.

For those interested in receiving a copy of the recordings of these webinars, please register your interest in the World Ports Conference here : wpc@mercatormedia.com

About IAPH

Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has developed into a global alliance of 180 port authorities as well as 150 port-related businesses. Comprised of 84 different nationalities across the world’s continents, member ports handle approximately one third of the world’s sea-borne trade and well over 60% of the world container traffic. IAPH leads global port industry initiatives on decarbonisation and energy transition, risk and resilience management, and accelerating digitalisation in the maritime transport chain. The IAPH’s World Ports Sustainability Program has grown into the reference database of best practices of ports applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals and integrating them into their businesses.