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The Baltic region aims to become a model in terms of sustainable maritime policy. Its regional authorities are planning to share their experiences and promote best practices, such as onshore power supply (OPS).

Initiated by the Baltic Sea States Subregional Cooperation (BSSSC, a political network of regional authorities in the Baltic Sea region, Clean Baltic Shipping is an action plan that will be developed as part of the European Union's Baltic Sea Strategy. For Stefan Musiolik, a member of BSSSC and head of the Department for Baltic and North Sea Affairs at the Ministry for Justice, Employment and Foreign Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein (a German Land), "the idea is to combine our strength, to work together to develop sustainable maritime traffic and sustainable port development". In practical terms, the Clean Baltic Shipping programme involves five areas of action. It aims to bring into general use the policy of environmentally differentiated port and channel dues by encouraging ships with low sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, rewarding best practice in the area and introducing labels like the German eco-label. The plan also highlights the need to establish quality maritime tourism, for example by fitting all cruise ships with wastewater treatment systems. Lastly and most importantly, the plan aims to facilitate onshore power supply in all Baltic region ports by 2015.

Onshore Power Supply (OPS), also known as cold ironing,' is a high-voltage power supply system for docked vessels that replaces electricity supplied through on-board electricity generation systems powered by highly polluting diesel engines. The connection operation is easy and takes only minutes. The ship simply has to hook up to the power supply using a connector and specific cables. This measure is relevant and innovative for improving air quality in ports and port cities and reducing polluting gases, provided a renewable energy source is used, such as wind energy.

According to Ralf Giercke, energy and environment officer for Lubeck, the results are more than satisfactory since emissions of three of the most polluting and toxic gases, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and benzoyl peroxide de Benzoyl, have dropped by more than 70%. On top of this first environmental advantage comes the economic advantage: as fuel prices continue to rise, "using OPS can be less expensive for ships", explains Giercke. In addition, the power supply is quiet, by contrast to the noise and vibrations caused by auxiliary diesel engines.

The use of this new technology nevertheless runs into certain obstacles. The use of OPS only offers environmental benefits when the ship is docked and not when it is at sea. Consequently, while this new practice unquestionably contributes to sustainable port development, it is not enough on its own and must be combined with other practices. The experts also note a technical problem concerning compatibility between the electrical frequency produced by land-based supply and the frequency used by ships and they also emphasise the potential danger of manipulating high-voltage cables.

The establishment of several OPS projects in Europe, e.g. in Goteborg (Sweden), Lubeck (Germany), and in North America (Seattle, Los Angeles) demonstrates that this new technology is workable and, considering the results achieved, very promising. Ports seem determined to embark upon a green mini-revolution'.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Oct 15, 2009

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