Port-side Power: A Key Factor in Reducing Shipping Emissions

Shipping power has become a focal point in the global discussions on environmental conservation. The European Union (EU) has been at the forefront of creating and implementing regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the shipping industry. The EU’s Fit for 55 package, which includes the FuelEU Maritime regulation and the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), is a testament to the EU’s commitment to achieving a climate-neutral economy by 2050. However, achieving this ambition requires a significant increase in shipping power, particularly shore power supply, according to a new study by the ICCT.

The Role of Shore Power in Decarbonisation Shore power, also known as cold ironing, is an effective approach to decarbonising maritime transportation. It allows ships to switch off their auxiliary engines while berthed and connect to the local power grid. This reduces the burning of fossil fuels, thus cutting down on the CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. However, the installation of shore power infrastructure comes with its challenges, such as the need for significant investment and the overcoming of technical and logistical hurdles.

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The FuelEU Maritime Regulation and AFIR

The FuelEU Maritime regulation and AFIR form a critical part of the EU’s Fit for 55 package. The FuelEU Maritime regulation, effective from January 1, 2030, mandates that container and passenger ships of or over 5,000 gross tonnage (GT) connect to shore power while berthed at main EU ports listed in the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The AFIR, on the other hand, seeks to standardise and promote the development of shore power infrastructure in TEN-T ports. Despite being developed simultaneously, these two regulations are only partially harmonised, with the AFIR having additional requirements and exemptions compared to the FuelEU Maritime regulation.

Energy Needs of Ships

To understand the challenges of implementing the FuelEU Maritime regulation and AFIR, it’s essential to analyse the energy needs of ships. A study of ships undertaken by the ICCT that docked in 489 EU ports in 2019 revealed that about 15,700 ships spent more than 2 hours at berth, demanding nearly 5.9 terawatt-hours of energy. The majority (70%) of this energy demand was from TEN-T network ports. Currently, 51 ports in 15 EU coastal Member States have shore power infrastructure, supplying 309 MW of power, with 283 MW earmarked for container, passenger, and cruise ships.

Scaling Up Shipping Power

According to the ICCT report, the EU needs to triple or quadruple its installed shore power by 2030 to meet the ambitions of the FuelEU Maritime regulation and AFIR. This is based on whether Member States supply enough shore power to meet the average or maximum demand of container, passenger, and cruise ships. Half of the energy consumed at-berth in EU ports is attributed to Italy, Spain, and France, mainly due to cruise shipping traffic. This indicates that these three countries would need the most investment in shore power.

CO2 Emission Reduction

The current ambitions of the FuelEU Maritime regulation and AFIR may only lead to a 24% reduction in the EU’s estimated annual 4.37 Mt at-berth CO2 emissions. To achieve a 100% at-berth reduction in CO2 emissions, a revision of both regulations is necessary. This revision should, according to the ICCT, include a requirement for all ships of or over 400 GT to connect to shore power in EU ports. 

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Retrofitting and Electrifying Boilers

Boilers are responsible for 44% of all at-berth CO2 emissions. Therefore, they should also be retrofitted, electrified, or connected to shore power facilities, similar to auxiliary engines. This move will significantly contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Addressing Technical and Logistical Challenges

Implementing the regulations comes with technical and logistical challenges, such as voltage and frequency incompatibility, berth space availability, charging time spans, and power quality. The regulations should address these issues.

Renewable Energy Goals

Clear goals should be established for the share of renewables in the electricity grid used for shore power supply. This would contribute to the overall reduction of CO2 emissions.


The ICCT report shows that meeting the EU’s ambitions of reducing CO2 emissions requires significant investment in shore power. According to the authors, policymakers should consider revising the FuelEU Maritime regulation and AFIR to include all ships of or over 400 GT and retrofitting or electrifying boilers. They should also address the technical and logistical challenges faced in implementing the regulations and set clear goals for the use of renewables in the power supply.