Port Official: Shore Power is a Last-Generation Solution at Most Major Ports

Tuesday May 19, 2015

The president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority, James Newsome, last week down played the relevance of shore power systems, saying the technology "has really been rendered as a last-generation solution at most major ports," local media reports.

Newsome made the comments to the Charleston City Council before its members voted to adopt a tourism plan that includes a provision for that city and State Ports Authority (SPA) officials to "continue the dialogue on the installation of shore power" for cruise ships at Union Pier.

Newsome noted that since shore power systems were first being introduced, the availability and use of ultra-low sulfur fuel is much higher, and indeed since January 1, 2015 North American Emissions Control Area (ECA) rules have put a 0.10 percent sulfur cap on marine fuel.

This, plus an increase in the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems, or scrubbers, particularly on cruise ships, mean that the air quality improvements touted by shore power are now obsolete, he argued.

"I don't think you'll see any shore power installations [at U.S. cruise ship ports]," Newsome said.

He added that it would cost about $20 million to build shore power into a new cruise terminal planned at the north end of Union Pier - nearly four times what a contractor for the SPA said it would cost. 

Although limited outdoor testing was said to have shown no emissions above federal guidelines even when cruise ships are docked at the pier, environment groups were said to be pushing for the shore power system to be installed anyway.

"Shore power is a proven way to reduce air pollution from ships, and would deliver more reductions for Charleston than Carnival's scrubber proposal," Katie Zimmerman, director of the Coastal Conservation League's air, water, and public health program, said.

Zimmerman is referring to Carnival Cruise Lines' plan to install scrubbers on its vessel Fantasy - which calls Charleston home -  sometime this fall.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong-based non-governmental organisation Clean Air Network urged the city's government to adopt shore power at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in light of worsening air quality.