WPCAP: platform for climate action in maritime sector

The World Ports Climate Action Program focuses on taking action to combat climate change in the maritime sector

The WPCAP team met at Simon Fraser University, downtown Vancouver in Canada

Onshore power supply is evolving at an increasing pace. In a growing number of ports, the supply of electricity to moored vessels is becoming a mature part of the infrastructure. With quayside electricity, ships are supplied with (renewable) electricity for the use of equipment and lighting on board. Diesel generators and auxiliary engines can be switched off. This reduces emissions of CO2, nitrogen and particulates and also reduces noise pollution in the immediate vicinity.

Recently, representatives of the World Ports Climate Action Program (WPCAP) met in the context of the IAPH World Ports Conference, which was hosted by the Port of Vancouver. Delegates witnessed first-hand how container vessels and cruise ships are connected to the onshore power network in the Western Canadian port.

"With plugs weighing up to fifteen kilos to safely connect to the 6.6kV network," said Jarl Schoemaker of the Port of Rotterdam Authority and leader of the WPCAP onshore power working group. Schoemaker was in Vancouver for the WPCAP meeting where the working groups discussed progress and made agreements on how to proceed with the various processes.

Maximum impact

WPCAP focuses on taking action to combat climate change in the maritime sector. The port network was established in 2018 at the global climate conference in San Francisco. Meanwhile, member ports offer a significant geographical spread with Antwerp, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Hamburg, HAROPA PORT, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York / New Jersey, Rotterdam, Valencia, Vancouver and Yokohama. Within WPCAP, various coalitions work on specific projects, involving as many shipping companies, terminals and energy suppliers as possible for maximum impact.

WPCAP visit to onshore power installation at Canada Place, home to Port of Vancouver’s cruise terminal

In Canada, the onshore power working group made further progress. "Vancouver already has installations for container ships and the cruise industry – all running on almost 100% hydropower. By cooperating with a large number of ports, we see that the level of knowledge is increasing in areas such as technology, operations, safety, but also cost models."

In addition to existing installations in Vancouver and Los Angeles, among others, the ports of Antwerp, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, HAROPA Port and Rotterdam decided earlier last year to step up the pace in order to provide large container ships berthed with shore power by 2028. A 'ship owners module' was also designed to map out the cost difference between shore-side electricity and maritime fuels. This showed that shore-side electricity is cost-effective, robust and future-proof, particularly for large-scale energy consumers.


The progress of the WPCAP working group brings innovation in new systems. Schoemaker: "At the moment we are mainly looking at best practice sharing, opportunities to scale up shore power worldwide and possibilities to improve the technical standard. To this end we will bring our views to the International Electrotechnical Commission, which sets all the standards for electrical and electronic equipment. We see possibilities for improvement and can help grow the roll-out. This is certainly helpful in Europe where the European Commission's Fit for 55 programme is coming with requirements in the area of shore power, particularly for container and cruise vessels and ferries. But it also encourages other ports as we have a really good package in hand that makes the roll-out easier and can also accelerate it."

It underlines once again that WPCAP has developed into a platform for climate action in the maritime sector, not only in the form of knowledge development, but also in terms of practical application.

Alternative fuels

Another area that WPCAP is actively involved in is the preparation of ports to handle vessels using alternative fuels as part of shipping’s mandate to decarbonise. Given the fragmented fuel mix of the future, this is a very complicated landscape for ports that must navigate various aspects, including safety, governance, social engagement, and commercial factors. These factors may differ based on services the port offers, ranging from basic vessel calls to bunkering, maintenance and industrial services.

“The considerations for a port call from a vessel using ammonia would be different to that for a vessel looking to bunker hydrogen or an e-methanol ship that needs repairs,” explains Cees Boon from the Port of Rotterdam.

The WPCAP working group on alternative fuels is aware that there are a number of organisations also attempting to address challenges in the future landscape and identify opportunities for ports. These organisations include the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) through its Clean Marine Fuels (CMF) group, the Getting to Zero Coalition, class societies, think tanks and many more.

Representatives from the working group were invited to attend the IAPH CMF meeting, which had a focus on further developing its suite of bunker checklists and audit tools. The IAPH group had created the basic building blocks of a safety framework to address the use of alternative fuels by vessels in ports. The discussion with WPCAP centred on the next step to create a tool to facilitate transparency around a port’s ability to accommodate such vessels. IAPH's CMF Working group and WPCAP Working Group 4 agreed that the latter would develop this tool over in Vancouver.

WPCAP also visited Centerm Terminal, a major dock in Vancouver's East Side

Industry standard

Boon was inspired to use the existing Technical Readiness Level (TRL) tool that has already been established as an industry standard in order to create a Port Readiness Level indicator for Alternative Fuels for Ships (PRL-AFS). The PRL-AFS is a nine-step indicator tool that tracks the progress a port offering port call or bunkering services would make towards its eventual status as completely ready to accommodate vessels using individual fuels.

“In addition to the indicator, we have developed a useful visualisation to indicate the status of each port for each alternative fuel in a glance – which we believe will appeal to stakeholders such as shipowners/operators, regulators, fuel suppliers, etc. The visualisation matrix provides a great amount of information at a simple glance, including current readiness level for a single fuel, the ambitions of the port and also relevant information about port space utilisation,” says Namrata Nadkarni, chair of the working group and founder of maritime consultancy Intent Communications. “Furthermore, we have also begun to create guidance for the considerations in each individual level.”


Although the path for this working group’s future beyond 2023 is yet to be determined, the intention is to use the coming months to refine the indicator, see if it would apply to other port types, and share it with relevant stakeholders such as the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), CMF, International Chamber of Shipping, the Getting to Zero Coalition of the Global Maritime Forum, International Association of Bunker Operators, etc for feedback. The partnership with IAPH furthermore provides a platform to bring proposals to the attention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as well as the wider global ports community. The working group will also continue to flesh out the guidance document for the PRL-AFS, which will be invaluable not just for ports but also as an educational tool to answer the regularly asked question, “When will you be alternative fuel ready?”

In the fall, further progress will be discussed with all port CEO’s, followed by the first global WPCAP conference, in the first half of 2023.

More information on WPCAP can be found through the links below:

General: https://sustainableworldports.org/wpcap/

Shore power: https://sustainableworldports.org/wpcap/wg-3/

Sustainable fuels: https://sustainableworldports.org/wpcap/wg-4/

Storage and transshipment equipment: https://sustainableworldports.org/wpcap/wg-5