German shipowners warn of difficulties in government’s shore power plans

The German Shipowners’ association welcomes government initiatives for shore power in ports but warns of difficulties for ships that frequently moor at different berths, like bulk carriers and multipurpose vessels. 

The German federal government is taking steps to introduce shore power in the German seaports with the goal to lower harmful emissions. Environment ministers of the federal and state governments are meeting in Hamburg this week to discuss several initiatives.

The German Shipowners’ association VDR says it welcomes these initiatives but warns of certain difficulties ahead. “There is a need for sound infrastructure and clear regulations: onshore power is suitable for ships operating regular shuttle or scheduled services which routinely use the same berths. Container ships and bulk carriers, on the other hand, frequently moor at different berths in the same port or need to be moved during loading and unloading. Providing them all with flexible onshore-side power facilities is likely to exceed the capabilities of the ports, as well as of many of the ships”, CEO Ralf Nagel states.

The association also says shore power only makes sense when it comes from renewable energy sources. “Onshore power plants are currently competing against alternative fuels with similar or even better pollutant and CO2 emission balances – and this competition will become fiercer in the future. What matters, in the end, is the overall ecological footprint”, VDR states.

Lastly, hooking up to onshore power must become more economically attractive. “There is a need to provide financial incentives to shipping companies, as many of them, especially in this country, are engaged in fierce competition on a global scale,” explained Nagel.

He added that to date, the availability of onshore power has been the exception rather than the rule, with only just over 20 ports worldwide offering onshore power facilities. To use onshore power, most shipping companies would first need to retrofit their ships, which would require some effort as well as millions in investment. So far, onshore power in German ports has cost shipping companies two to three times as much as the use of on-board auxiliary diesel engines. The planned reduction of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) levy on onshore power in Germany by 80 per cent is, therefore, a sound and important measure, VDR concludes.

Author: Tobias Pieffers

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