Shipping emissions at ports to quadruple by 2050, report says

Most shipping emissions at ports are set to increase fourfold through 2050, requiring strong abatement measures on shipping in targeted regions in coming decades, according to a new report by the International Transport Forum.

Carbon dioxide and mono-nitrogen oxide emissions from ships in ports are forecast to rise up to 70 million metric tons and 1.3 million metric tons respectively by 2050, driven by growing demand for certain commodities and goods, the “Shipping Emissions in Ports” report said.

Asia and Africa will see the sharpest spikes in emissions, due to their projected strong port traffic growth to 2050 and the lack of regional mitigation measures, such as emission control areas, or ECAs, according to the Paris-based organization. Asian port traffic is projected to reach half of the global total in 2050.

However, European and North American ports will show relative declines of emissions because of comparatively slower traffic growth and stricter regulatory measures, such as ECAs, the report said. For example, because of the emission control areas and the 0.1 percent maximally allowed sulfur content in these areas from 2015, sulfur oxides emissions in European and North European ports are projected to be just 5 percent of the total sulfur oxides emissions in global ports, although their total port traffic is expected to account for 24 percent in 2050.

Read: Shipowners want uniform rules on low-sulfur fuels

In order to reduce these projected emissions worldwide, stricter regulations will be needed, including alternative fuels or power sources, such as liquefied natural gas; operational measures, like hull and propeller conditions or weather routing; technical measures, such as improved engines; and structural changes, like port efficiency or slow-steaming, according to the report.

“Ship emissions in ports follow a highly skewed distribution pattern, with more than a third of the emissions occurring in only 50 ports,” said Olaf Merk, ITF’s administrator of ports and shipping and author of the report. “This points to the concentration of air pollution in selected environmental hotspots, but also suggests that policy interventions with respect to environmental externalities, such as on shore power supply, would be most effective if focused on these places.”

Although the report did not find indications of economies or diseconomies of scale with regards to relative emissions, there were geographical differences. Shipping-related emissions in Asian and European ports were large in absolute terms, but small in relative terms, representing 70 percent of total port calls but only 51 percent to 58 percent of shipping-related emissions.

“The explanation for this is their favorable performance in time efficiency in Asia and Europe: shorter port times mean relatively lower emissions,” Merk said.

In contrast, the ports in North America, Africa and Oceania have relatively high emissions, according to the report. In North America, this is caused by a “much larger” vessel capacity calling at ports, perhaps because of the “relatively underdeveloped” short sea shipping market in the U.S., and in Africa, it is caused by unfavorable performance in time efficiency: vessels have longer port stays than on other continents, so container ship emissions in port areas are larger.

“Considering that most of the largest ports in the world are Asian or European ports, that is closer to the efficiency frontier, the opportunities of reducing global shipping emissions in ports by improving port efficiency remains essential, but might actually have relatively limited impact,” Merk said.

Contact Grace M. Lavigne at and follow her on Twitter: @Lavigne_JOC.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *