Cruise ships are ready to turn off their engines while in Australian ports but can’t connect to shore power supplies, with CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz urged Australian cities to get serious on their sustainability agendas.
With only two per percent of ports worldwide currently offering at least one cruise ship berth fitted with shore power, cruise lines are moving much faster at being able to plug in and cut their engines while in port, with Australia at risk of being left behind as Europe, Asia and North America press ahead with shore power capability.
Currently, Sydney is the only Australian cruise port developing shore power infrastructure, with White Bay Cruise Terminal expected to be online by the end of 2024 but only for ships able to fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Traveltalk understands Port of Brisbane, which opened in 2020, is fitted with shore power capability but lacks the infrastructure needed to connect to the city’s power grid.
As cruise lines work feverishly to improve their environmental footprint by investing heavily in LNG and other biofuels and propulsion sources, the presence of shore power allows a ship to turn its engines off completely while in port, cutting its emissions by up to 98 per cent.
Speaking to Traveltalk at Cruise360 in Brisbane yesterday, CLIA Managing Director Joel Katz said Australia needs a collaborative approach to shore power infrastructure with government working alongside industry and private investment.
“We really do need, like the European Union where there has been a commitment to move to shore power, we need governments and destinations around the world to work with the industry to understand what can be done to move to shore power,” Katz said.
“But [ports need to] recognise that there is a significant cost involved. Cruise lines are obviously investing heavily and making sure that ships are shore power enabled. But that advantage of being able to turn the engines off in ports, where there is green power available, really has a way to create a positive impact in those destinations.”
According to CLIA’s 2023 Environmental Technologies and Practices Report, nearly half of the global cruise fleet has been adapted to accept shore power in ports where the facility is available.
This will increase to more than 70 per cent by 2028 and 100 per cent by 2035, while shore power connectivity is also now a standard inclusion in new ship design and construction.
However, only 32 ports worldwide offer the option to plug in - 16 in Europe, 11 in North America and five in Asia, with none currently available in Australia and New Zealand.
The European Union Council recently passed a regulation requiring all major ports across the continent to offer shore power to both cruise and container ships by 1 January 2030, with all ships also required to connect to it from the same date.
Aside from Sydney at least taking the right steps towards offering shore power, Katz said CLIA Australasia is in constant discussions with other states, with some undertaking feasibility studies for shore power.
“The challenge is very often the cost [but] obviously also the source of the power. There was an advantage in White Bay that the Metro is being built and passing through, so I'm assuming that gave them an advantage when it came to bringing the power in.
“I know there are other ports that we've spoken to around Australia where they've done the feasibility study, they are ready to proceed with the project, but they actually don't have the power at the port.
“So then there's a capital investment that's needed to actually bring more power into the port precinct. So in some cases, they're waiting for other projects to take place that'll also require power.”
Shore power is just one of numerous environmental advancements being made across the global CLIA fleet, Katz said, with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) set to power the industry’s new ships for many years despite being considered a “transitional fuel”.
“There are a whole range of alternative fuels and power methods that are that are being trialled,” Katz said.
“I know some cruise lines are already testing fuel cells on board their ships. And each generation is seeing that the next size of fuel cell is bigger and more efficient and capable, but it does require a significant power load.
Katz added that leisure cruise ships, which make up only one per cent of the global shipping fleet, are leading the way for the broader shipping industry with technological advancements that will translate to overall benefits for all oceangoing vessels.
“The work that we're doing as the cruise industry is really taking a leading role in shipping generally, because a lot of the technologies that we're pioneering is then being rolled out in shipping more broadly.
“We're very proud of that sort of leadership role that we’re taking, but we do need governments, ports and destinations to partner with industry.
“We hear a lot about sustainable aviation fuel. We don't hear a lot about sustainable marine fuel, but 99% of the shipping in Australia is commercial and will need sustainable marine fuel.”
"But my understanding is the vast majority of ships that come down to Australia are shore power enabled. So when that's available, they'll they'll be able to plug in."
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