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Maritime industry responds to climate concerns

Written by: Alexa Stone

Each year, cruise and commercial ships release about 1 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.[1] That equals the impact of 268 coal-fired power plants or 215 million gas-fueled automobiles.[2]

Container ship in port

The United Nations is responding to the problem. This November, it will issue a green shipping challenge at its Climate Change Conference, COP27. The challenge will encourage the international shipping sector to advance toward full decarbonization no later than 2050. This exceeds a 2050 goal set by a U. N. agency, the International Maritime Organization. That goal would reduce ship emissions to half of 2008 levels.[3]

Shipping companies and cruise lines are working to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions at sea and on land. Some ships have been adapted to hydrogen fuel cells and other fuels that are cleaner than petroleum at sea. With costs still high, the numbers of those less-polluting ships are limited.[4]

Fortunately, various GhG reduction options are being implemented and adapted at port. Land-side operational strategies can provide even greater emission reductions. There, the optimal benefit will depend on the choice of technologies and the timing of equipment replacement.


Ports can reduce their carbon footprints at costs scaled to the size of each port, with the technologies best suited for that port’s facilities and vessels.[5] Among many proven options:

Shore power for marine vessels

While berthed, ships can shut down their engines and plug into an Onshore Power Source (OPS). The ship’s power load can transfer to shoreside without interruption. Crew berths, auxiliary lighting, and air conditioning systems also draw from that source.

Larger ports may find full or partial use of renewable energy a practical, lower-cost option.[6]

OPS installations typically require a facility to contain switchgear, transformers, and frequency converters. Those and similar devices aim to adapt the shoreside voltage, frequency, and other electrical characteristics to match shipboard systems.

EPA logoThe EPA offers a free Shore Power Emissions Calculator. The downloadable spreadsheet estimates Greenhouse Gas (GhG) and other pollutants based on vessel, fuel, and regional electricity grid factors. A recent update also considers EPA Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) data and 2022 Port Emissions Inventory Guidance in the estimate.

Hybrid vehicles for drayage

Where older drayage trucks have been replaced with cleaner diesel trucks, substantial emissions reductions have already been measured for NOx (-48%) and particulate matter (-52%). Today’s plug-in hybrid vehicles offer even greater NOx and particulate reductions.

Electronic equipment for cargo handling

Ports that upgrade their cargo handling equipment from petroleum-powered to electric can reduce their CO2 emissions up to 45% by 2050.

Climate change readiness and regulatory compliance are being considered nationwide at ports, terminals, and other transportation facilities!

ecoPreserve trained and experienced consultants are here to help by researching the technology options and finding opportunities for greater resilience and energy savings. For further facts, reach out to ecoPreserve using the mini-form on the Contact page.