Portside emissions: a real health hazard

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Ports, Shore Connection system

Who is most affected by emissions from ships?

People living in and around port and harbour areas are growing increasingly concerned over air pollution in their communities. They have good reason, as a quick overview of ship-generated pollution reveals.

Ships release 70% of their emissions within 400 kilometres of land with the wind carrying them shoreward.


Why do coastal communities bear the brunt of air pollution?

Ships spend a sizeable proportion of time moored in harbours and ports. Merchant vessels, for example, spend around 100 days a year at berth. There they have to keep their IT systems, air conditioning, lighting, and sanitation running. To that end, their auxiliary engines are constantly in operation. They are therefore producing emissions the whole time. Add to that another source of pollution – onboard waste incineration, which includes dioxins and other heavy metals.

The result? Ship-generated emissions are often the chief source of air pollution – particularly particulate matter – in the highly populated economic hubs where ports are located. Thousands, even millions, of people may be affected.

Hong Kong considers emissions from berthed cruise and cargo ships to be the biggest cause of its air pollution. According to figures from the Los Angeles Air Quality Management District (AQMD), emissions from berthed ships account for 700 premature deaths every year.  And in the European Union, international shipping pollution is expected to outstrip land-based sources by 2020.


How can port operators mitigate port-side pollution?

Port operators, you are on the frontline in the fight against ship-generated emissions and particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10). You play a critical role.

By equipping your facilities with shore connection technologies you can drastically reduce the effect of pollution from international maritime shipping on the coastal communities where you do business.

You will not only fulfil your social responsibility towards host communities and protect the environment, you will earn income.

EU recommendation 2006/336/EC describes shore power as the optimal solution in terms of both cost savings and pollution control.

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  • Silvia Caballero

    11 years ago

    Hi Daniel, thanks for this information! Air pollution caused by ships seems to have a significant negative impact on health and quality of life when you live close to a port. I wonder also what’s the overall cost for society linked to it. Do you know whether there’s official data about it?
    Thanks in advance.

  • Lorène Grandidier

    11 years ago

    Hi Silvia,
    Indeed, several studies have been done to assess the impact of ship emissions on human health. Brandt et al, argue that Emissions from international shipping cause the deaths of about 50000 people/year in Europe with an annual cost for society estimated at €58B and could represent 12% of total health costs by 2020 (see Assessment of Health Cost Externalities of Air Pollution at the National Level using the EVA Model System, March 2011)
    I also recommend you to have a look at J. Corbett studies that give an international perspective, mainly Mortality from ship emissions: a global assessment, released in Environmental Science & Technology in December 2007. These studies clearly proves that despite spending most of their time at sea, ships impact on health is essentially when they are in ports.

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