16.05.2019 //
Nina Garlo-Melkas
Timo Porthan

A pioneer in green port operations

The Port of Helsinki highlights corporate responsibility in its new strategy. One of the most important projects is the Carbon-Neutral Port 2035 programme, which aims to reduce environmental emissions.

The Carbon-Neutral Port 2035 programme is based around the Carbon-Neutral Helsinki 2035 project, which kicked off in 2017. The Port of Helsinki launched the emission reduction programme as part of its endeavour to become carbon-neutral – aiming for zero emissions – by 2035. This will be achieved by cutting the emissions of the Port’s own operations, as well as acting as a guiding influence concerning the emissions of other parties in the port area. 

“Because our operations only account for a fraction of the total emissions in the area, we need to use various incentives to get our stakeholders, such as port operators, shipping companies and logistics and transportation operators in the port area – to reduce their environmental emissions,” says Andreas Slotte, Head of Sustainable Development at the Port of Helsinki.

Within its own operations, the Port of Helsinki is making brisk progress towards its objective of zero emissions by 2035. The energy efficiency of the Port’s buildings has been boosted over the course of several years thanks to measures such as new lighting solutions. Renewable forms of energy, such as solar power, now account for a greater proportion of the total. For example, the electricity consumption at Vuosaari cargo harbour has decreased to less than half of the amount recorded in 2009 – the year when the harbour was taken into use.


Incentives lead to results

Last year, the Port of Helsinki adopted a price-based incentive system that grants discounts on the vessel fees charged to shipping companies based on reductions in environmental impacts. One of the criteria for granting discounts is having low-emission ships. This may mean that the vessels use fuels such as biogas or liquefied natural gas or that they use shore power when they are in port. 

The size of the discount depends on the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) score or the Clean Shipping Index (CSI) emission level. Discounts can also be granted for investments or innovations that improve the energy efficiency of ships and reduce emissions. In such cases, the application for a discount must include a plan or tangible proposal for changes.

According to Slotte, the incentive system has already proven effective and received acclaim. Last October, the international Green Shipping Summit granted the Port of Helsinki the title of greenest port of the year. 

“The win was down to our discount for cruise traffic designed to encourage shipping companies to discharge their wastewater directly into the Helsinki sewage system. At present, approximately 90 per cent of international cruise vessels calling in Helsinki discharge their wastewater in port, but the target is for every ship to do so.

Every pier enables wastewater to be discharged directly into the sewerage network, which takes it onward for treatment by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority. There is no extra charge for discharging wastewater. 

Since 2016, shipping companies have received a 20 per cent discount on their vessel waste fees for solid and oil waste when they also discharge their wastewater in port. 

“We are among the pioneers in our industry in this regard,” Slotte says.


Making urban traffic flow smoothly 

The Port of Helsinki has introduced price-based incentives for lorry traffic. The incentives seek to increase the amount of cargo traffic between Vuosaari and Estonia and make urban traffic flow more smoothly.

“Time-based pricing enables lorry traffic at the West Harbour and the South Harbour to be directed away from the peak times of day to quieter hours. In addition, traffic can be directed to Vuosaari. In the future, the cargo traffic remaining in the West Harbour will be directed onto Tyynenmerenkatu, which is on the eastern side of Jätkäsaari rather than the western side,” Slotte says. 


Minimising noise

Noise abatement is important as the passenger harbours are located in the centre of the densely populated Greater Helsinki region. Many vessels use their own noise dampers. The Port of Helsinki addresses the problems of noise by issuing comprehensive guidance on matters such as reducing the clattering sound made by ramps. 

In order to minimise noise, the Port of Helsinki offers shore power for Viking Line’s cruise vessels at the pier in Katajanokka. Thanks to the shore power connection, vessels do not need to use their auxiliary engines to generate electricity in port, thereby reducing the decibel level. Shore power also helps to reduce emissions.

“In the future, the opportunity to use shore power will be offered on three other piers in the West Harbour and the South Harbour,” Slotte says.

There is already a clear example of the impact of a price-based incentive system for noise abatement: When the M/S Princess Anastasia, which sails between the West Harbour and St Petersburg, went in for winter docking, noise abatement measures were also performed. The engines were serviced and the noise dampers were replaced, reducing the vessel’s total noise by 4–5 decibels.

“The impact was highly substantial. The shipping company has said that the discount we offer acted as a good financial incentive for them to carry out overhauls to reduce noise emissions.”