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UKMPG to publish report it commissioned from Arup on ports and air quality

The UK Major Ports Group today held a roundtable briefing and discussion on ports and air quality with a cross section of participants from industry, government and NGOs. The briefing was based on the emerging findings from research, commissioned from leading air quality specialists Arup, and took place at Arup’s office in London. The report is due to be published next week. It includes one finding that "emissions from vessels in the ports usually have a relatively low and very localised impact"

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The research looks at data for three UKMPG ports representing a range of characteristics to examine trends and key drivers in air quality in the areas around the ports, as well as activity on the ports itself. The report goes on to catalogue and evaluate a range of air quality improvement options in terms of potential impact and feasibility.


Tim Morris, UKMPG’s CEO commented: “Major ports can and will do more to continue their record of AQ improvement. But today’s report is clear that to make a major difference in urban areas around ports the improvement requires more than the port itself acting. All stakeholders – industry and government at different levels – need to play their part to deliver meaningful impact."


Key emerging findings from the research include:


  • The operations of ports themselves make up a small proportion of total air quality emissions, particularly in urban locations.
  • Air quality around ports – particularly in urban areas – is dominated by road traffic emissions, predominantly diesel cars and HGVs (including, but by no means solely, port related traffic). The growing share of Euro 6 standard diesel vehicles is forecast to drive notable future air quality improvements in these areas.
  • Emissions from vessels in the ports usually have a relatively low and very localised impact.
  • Effective options for ports to continue to improve their air quality performance include action to help reduce congestion in freight flows (e.g. vehicle booking systems), a range of operational improvement and engagement measures and, over time but beginning already, shifting to greater electrification of port operations. Such options can collectively improve air quality in a more cost-effective way than some more high-profile options.
  • Government has a role to play, too. An effective immediate action to improve air quality in port areas would be to restore and boost incentives for modal shift of freight from road transport to, particularly, rail. Government could also act to support a speedier transition to the electrification of port operations.
  • Over the mid- and longer terms there are important roles for Government in supporting the provision of infrastructure for much greater electricity demand at ports (e.g. shoreside power supply) and working in international for a on agreements for shipping standards.
  • Key to driving significant impact will be cooperation and alignment between a range of stakeholders – ports, hauliers, shippers, infrastructure providers, local authorities and central Governments.
Based on Arup's findings, vessel emissions in port are not a priority for UKMPG members on AQ issues
Based on Arup's findings, vessel emissions in port are not a priority for UKMPG members on AQ issues

Morris continued: “The UK’s major ports take environmental stewardship very seriously and support high sustainability standards. This research is a contribution to making sure that the important task of improving air quality is well-grounded in fact and informed by expert views.


"Some of the debate about air quality has, unfortunately, not been well informed. As an island nation that relies on the sea for 95% of its trade in goods, particularly as the UK approaches Brexit, it’s vital that action taken on air quality is both effective and maintains the UK’s ability to trade with the world.”


The Government’s draft AQ strategy included a potential requirement for major ports to produce robust air quality strategies. UKMPG says it supports the principle of this, but to be effective policies must also be viable, both in terms of what’s achievable and the time frame to achieve it.


The finding that vessel emissions are not a major contributor to poor AQ is very interesting in light of the various "cold ironing" projects that have been and are being executed at various ports around the world. The Arup finding means that berth electrification is not a priority for UKMPG members. Tim Morris said: "I think it’s a very interesting question of money spent per unit of impact, particularly anywhere further than 200m or so from the port."

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