Clean Air Strategy: Ports and shipping are part of the solution, not the problem

  • Lack of credible evidence behind strategy is concerning
  • Disappointing that Government has not recognised it is cleaner to move goods by sea rather than by rail, air or road
  • Strategy is a missed opportunity to support more coastal shipping around the UK

The British Ports Association has responded to the Government’s Clean Air Strategy which was published today and includes requirements for all major ports in England to develop air quality plans within the next year.

Commenting on the strategy, Mark Simmonds, Policy Manager at the British Ports Association, said:

“Ports and shipping are part of the solution, not the problem and it is disappointing that the Government have missed the opportunity to promote shipping as the cleanest way to move freight.

“Ports handle 95% of the UK’s trade and moving freight by sea is still by far the most environmentally-friendly way to facilitate global trade – as well as ensuring our economy continues to function and our food and energy supplies are secure. In comparison with other transport modes shipping is an efficient and environmentally sustainable option. Utilising the UK’s hundreds of ports in supporting more coastal shipping has the potential to take thousands of lorries off of UK roads.

“The industry is keen to play its part and work with Government on improving air quality but this must be done holistically and using credible evidence.”

Commenting specifically on Port Air Quality Plans, he said:

“This is a tight deadline, but many major ports will already be taking action on air quality, monitoring the sources or producing plans of action. We are pleased that Government has recognised that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this. Measuring the sources of emissions is always difficult and Government should recognise that ports are often centres of major industry and logistics chains and do not usually have direct control over nearby emissions sources.”

The strategy states that “by May 2019, all major English ports should produce Air Quality Strategies setting out their plans to reduce emissions across the port estate including ship and shore activities. These plans will be reviewed periodically to establish if the measures implemented are effective or further government action is required.”

The BPA is disappointed that the strategy provides no evidence for its claim that “international shipping emissions have a significant impact on air quality in the UK due to shipping lanes and engine operation while at UK ports. We have been engaging with Government on air quality for some time but have still yet to see much credible evidence set in proper context.

The Government have based some of their assumptions on shipping and port emissions on reports where the methodology has significant limitations, such as substantial guesswork around vessels’ fuel type and sulphur content and assumptions on vessels’ engines. There are also significant question marks around source apportionment in emission monitoring.

The Clean Air Strategy was published on 22 May and is available here.