Building Port Sustainability

More efficient ports are a cornerstone of the drive to reduce carbon emissions in shipping. Equipment upgrades, digital tools, and changes to port infrastructure above and below water can all reduce wait times, provide more efficient loading and unloading, and keep vessels on their timetables, building port sustainability. Here are a few key steps for ports looking to drive down carbon emissions for their partners and their community.

Get Accurate Data

A clear picture of your port, its overall efficiency, and possible next steps is the foundation of port sustainability. Equipment inventory, average and median wait times, and common delays are a good starting point. Look for upcoming points in infrastructure investments to plan for and make changes, such as equipment nearing its useful lifespan.

For the data points you don’t have, digital approaches such as real-time air monitoring and data visualization can help you learn where you can strengthen your port.

Quantifying the exact scale of the issue is usually the first step. Collecting information such as wait times, delays in arrivals and departures, and other data can highlight issues and help you find solutions. Instrumentation can also help track air quality and other factors in real time.

Look for Funding Opportunities

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are multiple funding sources for ports looking to upgrade their efficiency and reduce emissions. At the federal level, the Clean Ports Program and the Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicle Program are two examples of possible funds for upgrades, while other sources are available from the Department of Transportation and at the state level.

Develop an Electrification and Automation Plan

Automation allows for unloading of vessels that’s both faster and safer. Similarly, electrification can reduce emissions and enhance sustainability. Further, as the cost of solar panels and wind turbines decrease, and new technologies such as tidal power become more prevalent, adding them to ports can be a useful sustainability tool.  They can also support land-side emissions reductions, such as charging stations for battery-powered vehicles and equipment.

Battery energy storage systems (BESS) are also highly useful tools for ports, storing and dispatching energy for when it’s needed. Smaller batteries can power offices and structures, while larger ones can assist in providing steady power. Before committing to a system, work with a climate resiliency specialist and geotechnical consultant to determine if any ground improvement work will need to be done to ensure the weight of batteries and similar equipment won’t exceed the subsurface soils’ ability to bear the overall loads of the equipment and prevent costly settlement problems.

An automation plan, meanwhile, should start with collecting data and turning it into information. Developing a system that tracks port data in real time and presents it in accessible ways improves efficiency and will highlight possible further steps to take with equipment upgrades.

Upgrades and Expansion of Current Infrastructure

While more locations for docking can improve efficiency and reduce wait times, any possible expansion should be weighed carefully against the natural infrastructure it replaces. Leaving natural and nature based features in place or enhancing them may improve your port’s sustainability and resiliency to the impacts of climate change over the long term. Enhancing natural features provides climate resilience for your port and the surrounding areas, porous and unpaved surfaces, wetlands, marshes, and other natural features can absorb wave energy and adapt to more frequent storms and coastal flooding.

Upgrades to current infrastructure, however, can assist in efficiency with minimal impacts. Berthing aid systems, for example, use laser measurements to provide bow and aft distance, speed of approach, and angle on a system that can be viewed both on screens in the terminal and on large LCD panels seen from the ship.

As port infrastructure and logistics planning technologies and other software tools advance, they create opportunities to plan for investments to make your port more safe, cost-efficient, resilient, and sustainable for decades to come.