UK Government urged to prioritise port grid connections to enable shore power, green corridors


The UK Government is not investing enough to support decarbonisation in ports, and grid connections must be prioritised, delegates were told at Arup’s ‘Shipping decarbonisation, the role of ports, opportunities for the UK’ event during London International Shipping Week.

Doug Bannister, Chief Executive of the Port of Dover, outlined the sustainability agenda at Dover, including a Net Zero target for Scopes 1 and 2 by 2025 and work to establish the first high-volume green corridor across the English Channel.

In March, Dover signed an MoU with the ports of Calais and Dunkirk, and DFDS (pictured) to develop the green corridor. “There is an option here all the ferries are electric. The problem is, we don’t have much power,” said Bannister. “Predicted demand would be 160MW. Right now we have [access to] 8MW. They are not going to invest in electric ferries unless there is power in the port, and we are not going to invest in electricity in the port unless there are electric ferries.”

He added: “Calais has a massive electricity infrastructure behind the port, so their investment decisions are a lot easier in that regard. Dunkirk has a nuclear power station in their port. Meanwhile, we have a National Grid infrastructure which needs a tremendous amount of investment. From the port perspective, we go on the list behind the garage, the supermarket, the shopping mall and the hotel operator.”

Dover has three ‘asks’ of Government “to help us take a leading role in decarbonisation of the supply chain”, he said. “First, prioritise grid connections into the ports. We don’t need to be more important than hospitals, but you have to see us a bit higher up the list.”

Second: “Make it easier for us to invest. Planning regimes are quite cumbersome and clunky. Open the doors, guys, is the message. Help us because we are ready to go with this stuff.”
Third: “We might need a bit of funding or guarantees. There is insufficient capital being deployed by the UK Government in these things.”

Maersk has set a target to decarbonise its business completely by 2040 – not only ships and terminals but also air, land and warehousing, said David Browne, Director Corporate and Social Affairs.

However, the route to Net Zero is not free, he emphasised. “Investment in infrastructure, fuels, technology and vessels all add costs to the bottom line and that could make us less competitive in the marketplace. Unless others step up or are forced to step up, we could become less competitive. The UK is not a good place unless we are all on a level playing field.”

Browne noted that Maersk’s first green methanol vessel had that morning entered Danish waters for her christening [see separate story], and it would arrive in the UK from Rotterdam later in September, to discharge containers at DP World London Gateway.

“The containers will go through DP World’s green terminal, to get on a train to the Freeport in the East Midlands, where they will be moved by electric truck and into our warehouse.”

This is only one ship and a few boxes but “a super example of what can be done”, he said. “It is great news. However, more is required. This state-of-the-art ship cannot plug into shore power at London Gateway because they don’t have the infrastructure or the electricity. So it is a sunk cost.”

Dr Tristan Smith, Co-Founder of UMAS, agreed that the UK Government is not investing enough. Outlining the opportunities and risks around decarbonisation, he warned: “Expectation of support paralyses action. Assume weak UK Government support and direction pre-2025 – don’t be paralysed.”

Investment in electrification is a ‘no brainer’, said Smith. He described UK production or a UK supply chain of hydrogen-derived fuel as ‘not obvious’. “It only happens if there is much greater intervention by Government.”