Decarbonising maritime transport: Alternative fuels infrastructure at seaports | In Principle

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Decarbonising maritime transport: Alternative fuels infrastructure at seaports

According to a report published in 2021 by the European Environment Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency, 13.5% of total transport greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union originate from ships. Transforming maritime transport into a sustainable and environment-friendly sector requires actions on many levels. One of them is to enable ships moored in port to use shore-side electricity.

In many ways, the European Union supports the decarbonisation of maritime transport. On 25 April 2023, the Council of the EU adopted a series of regulations that should contribute to implementation of the “Fit for 55” package. These include provisions bringing shipping emissions into the EU ETS system. Provisions aimed at increasing demand for renewable and low-carbon fuels and encouraging their more widespread use have also been proposed. And work is underway on provisions accelerating the implementation of infrastructure helping transport achieve low or zero emissions. Added to this are general legislative proposals for increasing the share of energy from renewable sources, as well as changes in energy taxation.

We devote this article to alternative fuels infrastructure in seaports, taking into account the proposed Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR). AFIR is part of the “Fit for 55” package presented by the European Commission on 14 July 2021, which aligns the EU policies with its commitment to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 55% in comparison with the levels from 1990 by 2030 and achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050.

AFIR contains a series of rules aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the entire transport sector. In maritime transport, there are three main targets:

  • Ensuring the existence of a sufficient network of infrastructure for the purpose of charging or refuelling vessels using alternative fuels
  • Ensuring alternative solutions so moored vessels do not have to run their engines when berthed
  • Guaranteeing full interoperability across the EU and making infrastructure easy to use.

Are changes needed?

Directive 2014/94/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure was reviewed, and the Commission found that the directive is not properly aligned with implementation of the EU’s ambitious 2030 goals. This leads to insufficient and unevenly deployed infrastructure. There are also numerous interoperability issues with physical connections, as well as problems with communication standards. User acceptance is also low, due to the lack of transparent information for consumers and common payment systems. Thus, perversely, instead of contributing to the growth of the low-carbon transport market, the EU provisions actually create a barrier to that market.

The Commission’s proposal

Proposed on 16 July 2021, AFIR is complementary to the FuelEU Maritime initiative (Regulation on the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport). Until now, the very low demand from ship operators for connection to the power grid while at berth has made investing in shore-side electricity less attractive for ports. The limited introduction of shore-side electricity for ships in ports is linked to the risk of disrupting the level playing field of port operations. This is especially true for ports making investments at an earlier stage, as ships not technically adapted to shore-side electricity could shift their traffic to other ports. Therefore, it is important to define the minimum requirements for seaports across the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Shore-side electricity installations can provide clean energy for shipping and help reduce the environmental impact of marine vessels. Thus the purpose of the regulation is to ensure that ports install sufficient shore-side electricity supply to deliver electricity to berthing passenger and container ships.

AFIR distinguishes two categories of passenger vessels:

  • Ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger ships
  • Other passenger ships, especially cruise ships.

To take into account the electricity demand characteristics of the different types of berthing passenger ships, as well as the operational characteristics of the port, it is necessary to distinguish between the requirements for ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger ships and the requirements for other passenger ships.

Art. 9 AFIR sets forth rules for member states to ensure installation of a minimum level of shore-side electricity supply to certain marine vessels in seaports. According to the draft, member states will be required to provide a minimum level of shore-side electricity supply for seagoing container and passenger ships by 1 January 2030. The initial shore-side electricity supply should be sufficient to meet at least 90% of demand.

These requirements apply to seaports with an annual average seaport calls over the past three years:

  • Above 50, for container ships with a displacement of more than 5,000 gross tonnes
  • Above 40, for ro-ro type passenger ships and high-speed passenger ships with a displacement of more than 5,000 gross tonnes
  • Above 25, for passenger ships other than ro-ro type passenger ships and high-speed passenger vessels with a displacement of more than 5,000 gross tonnes.

Art. 11 AFIR requires member states to ensure an adequate number of LNG refuelling points at TEN-T maritime ports and identify the relevant ports in the national policy framework. A core network of LNG refuelling points at maritime ports should be available by 2025.

The wording of the regulation is evolving…

On 2 June 2022, while awaiting the position of the European Parliament, the Council adopted a general approach to the proposed legislation. The main change from the original wording of the regulation was to increase the number of port calls for container ships from more than 50 to more than 100.

In October 2022, the European Parliament adopted amendments to the motion regarding the proposed regulation, under which member states should ensure that by 1 January 2025, an adequate number of refuelling points not only for LNG, but also for ammonia and hydrogen, be launched at maritime ports belonging to the main TEN-T.

Then, on 28 March 2023, a political agreement was reached between the Council and European Parliament. Like any agreement of this type, it is informal and must be formally approved. The text of this agreement has not been published yet, and information about it can currently only be obtained from the Council press release. The text of the preliminary agreement retains the key general parameters for the 2030 electricity supply for ships moored at port. However, some aspects of the draft have been amended to maximise the efficiency of investments in hydrogen and ammonia refuelling. For changes in port infrastructure to actually support the decarbonisation of maritime transport, ease of use of this infrastructure is key.

A consistent approach

The procedure for adopting AFIR is pending, and its wording may yet undergo minor modifications. However, the need for its adoption is undeniable. The consistency between these provisions and the draft provisions regarding the Trans-European Transport Network deserves approval. Without changes in port infrastructure, decarbonisation efforts in maritime shipping have no chance of success. However, it is worth maintaining a common-sense approach to avoid introducing disproportionate requirements for this type of development.

Dr Adrianna Ogonowska, attorney-at-law, Environment practice, Wardyński & Partners