The recent pandemic affected all industry sectors worldwide, and the international maritime trade was no exception. However, shipping by sea still accounts for over 90% of the transportation of all goods globally and will continue to be the primary method of transportation for the foreseeable future. Projections for the global shipping container market alone in 2027 are $12 billion.
However, as industries begin to recover, the problem of harmful emissions while cargo, container, cruise, and other sea-faring vessels are at dock remains a serious concern. While at berth, ships typically use auxiliary diesel-powered engines to generate the power needed to maintain critical levels for ventilation, electrical, refrigeration, communication, and other systems.
Some vessel types, such as container, refrigeration, and cruise ships, require significant power while in port. The resultant polluting emissions are harmful to the environment, a danger to human, animal, and marine life, a source of significant noise pollution, and creates tension with neighboring port communities.
Shore power service stands alone in effectively addressing and satisfying all of these concerns.
What Is Shore Power?
The term “shore power” refers to the power source for the vessel at berth, using local onshore electrical power rather than the ship’s auxiliary diesel engines. Other terms for shore power include cold ironing, Alternative Maritime Power (AMP), and Onshore Power Supply (OPS).
Shore power has been used by the U.S. Navy Shore power over the past 20 years and is included in the Navy’s Incentivized Shipboard Energy Conservation program. Shore power solutions have more recently found their way into the commercial sector, filling a critical need. Using ship to shore power can dramatically reduce overall pollutant emissions by up to 98% when connected to the regional electricity grid while in port.
Why Do We Need Shore Power?
There are many reasons to utilize shore power systems. People, marine life, animals, air and water quality all benefit tremendously from shore power.
- Shore power systems present significantly fewer health risks to residents.
According to the EPA, emissions from vessels running auxiliary diesel engines at berth can significantly contribute to air pollution.
These emissions contain particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and air toxins contributing to substantial health risks. These health risks include increased respiratory symptoms, cancer risk, premature mortality, and hospital admissions. Children, the elderly, outdoor workers, and other sensitive populations are at the highest risk.
- Shore power usage improves relationships between the ports and local communities.
The existing air pollution can be a constant source of friction between the nearby port communities and the port, leading to opposition to port growth. Implementing ship to shore power systems improves the quality of life and health for ship and dock workers, helps preserve clean waters, protects marine life, and benefits the entire coastal community.
- Ship to shore service dramatically reduces noise pollution.
Another problem is noise pollution. Auxiliary engines are noisy, and they vibrate. When ships are hooked up to shore power converters, the noise pollution and vibration problem are eliminated.
- Ship to shore power solutions extends the life of the engines.
The engine is one of the most expensive parts of any ship, so extending the life of the ship’s engine through ship to shore power systems is extremely valuable. Allowing main or auxiliary engines to rest rather than run continuously while at port reduces wear and tear and increases overall lifespan.
Utilizing shore power also reduces the frequency of care and maintenance required to ensure optimal performance of the engines, saving time, work, materials, and thus money.
- Regional and international regulations increasingly require shore power conversions.
Getting ahead of coming regulations makes sense, and there are several financial incentives for switching over to shore power solutions. For example, the Environmental Shipping Index (ESI) rewards ships that voluntarily reduce their emissions, and ports that participate in the ESI offer incentives for ships to use shore power. In addition, cities and agencies offer significant grants for ports and ships to convert to shore power systems.
How Does Ship to Shore Power Work?
The ships are fitted with special power connectors that are connected to an onshore electrical power grid through a substation at the port. This allows cruise ships to maintain optimum comfort levels for passengers that remain on board while others disembark, for refrigeration units to keep their cargo at a safe and consistent temperature, and for cargo-operating machinery to function while loading or unloading.
There are specific technical requirements both shore and shipside, but in basically:
- On shore, an electrical substation is required to receive power transmitted from the local grid, typically at 34.5 kilovolts (kV). A transformer is also needed to bring the voltage down to the ship’s existing electrical voltage. International shore power standards are in place to make it easier for ports to select the proper equipment.
- Vessel modifications must also be in place and can be retrofitted with the proper infrastructure to connect to shore power systems. The ship must have a shore power converter and a shore power frequency converter. New ships can include an onboard shore power ready system as part of the ship’s electrical system design.
It is worth noting that while ship to shore power can substantially reduce auxiliary engine emissions at port, shore power does not address emissions from boilers or other vessel sources.
Who Will Benefit from Ship to Shore Power Systems?
Ports, terminals, and several types of ships will benefit from utilizing ship to shore power systems, including:
- Container Terminals
- City Ports
- Single and Multiple Frequency Applications
- Single and Multiple Berth Configurations
The main types of ships that will benefit from ship to shore power systems include:
Cruise ships can connect to a land source of power while at port and shut off their main and auxiliary engines while passengers embark and disembark, keeping the crew and remaining passengers comfortable, as noted earlier. Carnival Cruise Line has partnered with PortMiami with the help of a DERA grant to build their new projects to Miami in 2022. Shore power for cruise ships will continue to grow due to the many benefits and with the future fixed firmly in mind.
Nearly all cargo ships use diesel combustion engines to turn the propellers and diesel generators that power onboard lighting systems and communications equipment.
These larger vessels carry their cargo in truck-size containers. Due to their size, more power is required to keep them running while at port.
Ro-Ro (or Roll-On/Roll-Off) ships carry wheeled cargo that can drive on and off the ship, vehicles such as cars, buses, railroad cars, trucks, buses, trucks, etc. and semi-trailer trucks.
Reefer (refrigerated) vessels carry cargo that requires a continuous energy source to maintain the necessary temperature to protect their content while docked.
Tankers and LNG (liquified natural gas) carriers would also benefit from shore power service. Assessments suggest that shore power may be most effective when applied at terminals and ports with a high percentage of frequently returning vessels, often cruise and container ships.
There are additional considerations when thinking about switching over to shore power service.
For example, many ports do not currently have the appropriate infrastructure to connect to vessels with shore power components, although with increased regulations and powerful incentives, that number is rising.
Ships are constructed using the utility power available at the shipyard in the country of construction. However, due to past governmental decisions, the utility frequency in one country is not the same as the utility frequency in another. Although transformers can be used to match voltage, the frequency change, usually 50 Hz to 60 Hz OR 60 Hz to 50 Hz, can only be done using a piece of equipment known as a frequency converter. The most efficient type is solid state. Essentially this equipment operates on the available in-country utility power and converts that to the utility power required by the ship.
Other factors to assess include the length of time the ship will be connected to the shore power supply, actual energy costs, power consumption rate, and infrastructure costs. According to the EPA, vessels that frequently call on the same ports and remain at berth for longer times may be the best applications for shore power.
How Widespread Is the Use of Shore Power?
At present, shore power service has already been installed in more than ten ports in North America and Europe, with more already in the works.
Local, state, national, and international standards, regulations, and laws have been passed to address these particular environmental concerns. For example:
- The 200 nautical miles from the coasts of the U.S. and Canada, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea, are known as the Emission Control Areas (ECA). Ships entering the ECA are required to burn fuel that meets the 2015 International Maritime Organization standard.
- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) updated its regulations to require all cruise ships calling at California ports to use shore power, effective January 1, 2023.
- The Port of San Diego recently announced a $4.6 million commitment to double shore power capability to allow two cruise vessels at port to connect to shore power outlets at the same time by 2022.
- PortMiami has recently begun a pilot program to advance the development of shore power that will allow cruise ships in the port to start utilizing shore power solutions. The port was granted a $2 million allocation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to help fund the program.
- Overseas, the EU is advancing regulations requiring most commercial ships to use shore power, with European ports expanding their ship to shore power systems capabilities to meet those requirements.
Doubtless, other laws and legislation will be passed in the near future.
The Future of Shore Power
Many organizations such as the IMO (the UN International Maritime Organization) and the EU are focusing on overall reductions of marine pollutions through various means. Progress has been made over the last 15 years despite the massive increase in world seaborne trade. However, there remains the multi-pronged problem of harmful emissions while these vessels must necessarily dock in port.
The best – and at the moment the only – player in town to directly address the problem of environmental pollutants from ships at berth is shore power. There are no feasible alternative solutions currently available or even on the horizon, so to comply with growing legislation both here in the U.S. and abroad, or to get ahead of them, shore power is the best solution for ever-increasing environmental concerns.
Because commercial technology hasn’t been around for very long, many companies don’t have the experience or expertise to make these conversions and provide the most advanced solid-state technology needed to get the best results.
Why You Need an Industry Leader for Your Shore Power Needs
FCX Systems has been installing frequency converters and diesel ground power (GPU) units on every continent and in more than 75 countries since 1987. FCX continues to refine and enhance the performance of converters and power systems for the commercial, military, and industrial sectors.
FCX is the world’s leading manufacturer of solid-state frequency converters that enables high-performance power units to convert any conventional electrical power to either 60 Hz or 50 Hz power at the dock. We also provide ground power support equipment (GSE) and custom power conversion solutions. This means we work with all ships at facilities with shore power throughout the world. Your ship will be powered as if it were in its home port.
Our outstanding customer service includes onsite customer personnel training in operation, maintenance, and servicing, remote monitoring by computer interface systems, and backup FCX services centers worldwide.
Give us a call today at (304) 983-0402 or contact us online and let our experts help you choose the right ship to shore power system for your needs.