March 11th 2021

Why using technologies to reduce shipping’s environmental impact should be normal, not novel.

Guest blog with James Sutcliffe, Midstream Advisor.

With the shipping industry contributing to around 3.5% of global pollution and environmental regulation set to tighten, all aspects of the industry’s eco-system must be assessed for sustainability improvements. James Sutcliffe, multi-maritime business owner and Midstream Lighting senior advisor, discusses the importance of ship and port owners taking a proactive, holistic approach to reducing their carbon footprint and the industry’s overall environmental impact.

The current level of innovation and technology available to the shipping industry is significant. Despite the wide range of technologies proven to increase operational efficiencies, reduce carbon output and subsequently minimise costs, the rate of uptake and implementation of available technologies by port and ship owners is comparatively slow. From my position in the maritime industry, leading the strategy behind pioneering technologies aimed at ‘cleaning the industry up’, I can empathise with the challenges associated with the onslaught of options available. The considerations of suitability, reliability, investment and returns, as well as mitigating potential downtime, can be overwhelming. However, by breaking this down into small areas of operational improvement, the cumulative effect can be game-changing – both for meeting environmental targets and improving profitability.

The concept of continuous improvement has been a common thread throughout my career in the maritime industry. Back in 1862, my family moved to Grimsby, England, to start a shipping agency and stevedoring business. Five generations later, in 1990, I moved to acquiring and redeveloping ports and terminals, deploying modern management techniques and transforming rundown unsafe places into cleaner, smarter, and more efficient hubs. The catalyst for this was port privatisation in the UK, and with the increasing reach of the EU, the need for modern terminals and port operations in emerging markets – like our DCT Gdansk project in Poland.

We evaluate every element of a port’s infrastructure to ensure that optimum capacity and operational efficiencies are achieved. With more sustainable solutions required to fulfil the International Maritime Organisations (IMO) impending environmental regulations, re-evaluating the ‘green marine’ aspects of ports, as well as most other industry sectors, is slowly accelerating. This means there is a greater onus on service and technology providers to guide companies through the process.

Alongside Port Evo, I therefore established Crystal Seas, clean oceans means cleaner ships and HydroPort. Crystal Seas aims at tackling the issue of pollution at sea by providing ship owners with marine friendly and non-polluting technologies to clean ship systems, reducing the need for shipyard maintenance and vessel downtime.

HydroPort is aimed at reducing the carbon emissions at ports by implementing a renewable energy power source. Our solution operates by capturing the incoming and outgoing tides running through a turbine(s) in a port or terminal’s foundations to power the entire infrastructure. The solution works to facilitate a completely ‘green’ port or terminal with zero emissions and power to spare for ship plug ins and local industry development.

While the Crystal Seas and HydroPort projects tackle different environmental issues, their overall aim is the same – reducing the environmental impact of the shipping industry through relatively new technologies. Although the technologies are set to be more cost-effective in the longer term, and protect ship and port owners from further responses to future regulations, they are still viewed as novel and ‘forward-thinking’ – I think this must change.

A forward-looking, pragmatic and holistic approach is vital to not only ensure every element in shipping’s supply chain is individually considered, but to support investment in complimentary new technologies.

Lighting in ports and terminals is a case in point. A fundamental asset, which enables safe, secure and efficient operations is often taken for granted. This is despite the fact that traditional lighting systems account for huge annual expense and once erected are often ignored.

As a senior advisor at Midstream Lighting, I understand the vital role of modern lighting in ports. In fact, at Port Evo, Midstream Lighting’s LED technology is an integral element for our projects and clients who often have dated metal halide, or HPS lighting installed. LED lighting is proven to improve light quality by over 50%, increase energy efficiency by up to 70%, and, with a longer operating life, it is the sustainable solution.

I believe that making changes in, for example, port lighting, vessel systems cleaning solutions and marine based renewable energy power sources should all be part of the constant reassessment of ports, terminals and shipping today. We invest vast sums in handling equipment but often forget the bigger picture, i.e. end to end green technologies from producer to buyer.

This is where technologies, such as LED lighting, are vital to start initiating small steps and assessing other technologies along the way for future investment. There is an incredible opportunity to enhance the environmental performance of the ports and shipping industry by looking at every link in the chain. By taking a systematic approach to change and viewing technology as an asset rather than a complication, we will start making real progress to reduce the environmental impact on our oceans and improve operational performance.

James Sutcliffe, Midstream Lighting senior advisor and Senior Director, Port Evo, CEO, Crystal Seas and Chairman, HydroPort

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