White paper

Costs and benefits of shore power at the port of Shenzhen

China is home to seven of the world’s ten largest and busiest container ports. While these ports bring an economic benefit to China, they also bring shipping-related emissions. Studies conducted in Hong Kong and Shenzhen have found a link between the emissions from the shipping industry and negative health and environmental impacts in port cities.

Policymakers in China are beginning to realize the role shipping and ports can play in achieving national and regional air-quality standards. Recent amendments to China’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law (effective January 1, 2016) will require ships at berth to use fuels compatible with emission standards set by the government. Additionally, all new terminals should install shoreside electric power facilities to encourage ships to turn off their diesel engines while at berth. This paper evaluates the potential of shore power, or the use of electricity for ship operations at berth, to control air pollution at Chinese ports.

This analysis develops an emissions inventory for container ships berthing at the Port of Shenzhen in 2012, examines the life-cycle emissions savings from using onshore power to supplant diesel consumption from ships, calculates the cost effectiveness of onshore power, and compares the results to the cost effectiveness of using fuel switching that can achieve smaller, yet significant, emissions reductions.

This research indicates that for Port of Shenzhen, and potentially the rest of the ports in China, fuel switching should generally take precedence over onshore power because it is cheaper and technologically less challenging, and because PM emissions, for most cities in China, are the largest threat to public health. The onshore power alternative should only take priority if a low-sulfur fuel supply cannot be guaranteed, NOx emissions are dominant concerns, or onshore power infrastructure is already established.

If policymakers choose to prioritize onshore power as the primary emissions reduction option, they should provide incentives to attract ships already equipped with shipside infrastructure. Policymakers should seek to establish alliances with California, where the Air Resources Board (ARB) requires most container ships to use onshore power and where there are close trade ties with the city of Shenzhen and Guangdong province as a whole.

This analysis also highlights the importance of a detailed emissions inventory, without which it is impossible to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis. The Port of Shenzhen still lacks accurate emissions data and inventories for other ship types, which is also an issue for most other Chinese ports. Nevertheless, this research shows that the combination of Automatic Identification System (AIS) data and general ship information for vessels calling at a port can be used as an alternative, and that information is largely available for major ports in China.