The UK Major Ports Group (“UKMPG”), the body representing the global gateway ports for 75% of the UK’s seaborne trade, 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.
The research looks at data for three 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, Chief Executive of the UK Major Ports Group 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 parts to deliver meaningful impact. We collectively need to find solutions that achieve the joint goals of better air quality and ensuring that the U.K. gets the best out of its global gateways.”
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 fora 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.
Tim 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 expert views. Some of the debate about air quality has unfortunately not been well informed. As an island nation which relies on the sea for 95% of its trade in goods, particularly as the UK approaches Brexit, its vital that the action that’s taken on air quality is both effective and maintains the UK’s ability to trade with the world.”
The Government’s draft Air Quality strategy included a potential requirement for major ports to produce robust air quality strategies. The UK’s ports have made good progress on air quality and are working hard on investments, operational practices and with supply chain partners to achieve more. The UK Major Ports Group supports the principle of air quality strategies – but to be truly effective they must also be viable, both in terms of what is achievable and the time frame to achieve it. The assessment of improvement options in the Arup research, together with the rich and growing experience of the ports themselves, forms good input for these air quality strategies. The UK Major Ports Group looks forward to working both with members and Government to establish a common understanding of good, viable practice.
The Arup research report is expected to be released in the week commencing 17th September.