Port of Helsinki
16.12.2019 13:53:07 //
Juha Peltonen
Timo Porthan

The Port is increasing its carbon handprint

For the Port of Helsinki, being a pioneer in environmental issues means enabling other operators in the harbour area to reduce their carbon footprints. This will increase the Port’s carbon handprint.

The Port of Helsinki’s own operations only account for about five per cent of the climate emissions in the harbour area. The Carbon Neutral Port 2035 programme seeks to reduce these emissions to zero.

“I believe it will happen a lot sooner, but the absolute deadline is 2035,” says Andreas Slotte, Head of Sustainable Development.

“Being a pioneer means that we seek to steer other sources of emissions in the harbour area.” 

Like Nordic ports in general, the Port of Helsinki has long been a pioneer in environmental issues. However, the Port’s new strategy has made pioneering sustainability a priority project in order to underline the significance of environmental issues. The project’s most important element is the recently completed Carbon Neutral Port 2035 programme.

“Being a pioneer means that we seek to steer other sources of emissions in the harbour area. Ships represent the greatest single source of emissions by far, and we’re seeking a reduction of at least one fourth in this area.

Andreas Slotte
Head of Sustainable Development Andreas Slotte believes that the Port of Helsinki will succeed in making its own operations carbon neutral long before 2035.

We’re also seeking a 60 per cent reduction in emissions from work machines and trucks. If all of the programme’s targets are met, the overall carbon footprint of the Port of Helsinki’s harbour area will decrease by 32 per cent by 2035.

By ‘carbon footprint’ we mean the negative impact of an organisation’s own operations. A ‘carbon handprint’ on the other hand is a positive thing. It denotes an organisation’s ability to help others reduce their carbon footprints.

“The Port’s partners and customers are also working hard on these issues. They welcome the fact that the Port wants to support the adoption of new technologies and thereby enable them to achieve their own goals,” says Slotte.

Energy efficiency and solar panels

Carbon neutrality rests on two things. Energy consumption must be reduced and our remaining demand must be met using renewable energy sources. In the Port’s own operations, this means investments in the energy efficiency of buildings and switching to fossil-free electricity and heating.

“The Port’s own buildings are quite old. We’ll be improving their energy efficiency with a variety of measures that will be launched at the turn of the year. They will mainly involve electricity consumption and heating. Solar panels will also be installed on building roofs,” says Slotte.

He also expects carbon neutrality to be reached using traditional means.

“Compensation is by far the last resort.

We’ve not yet identified all the available means for reaching our targets. When it comes to work machines in the harbour area, electrification will probably be the solution with the most impact.

“Electrification is a social trend that’s also spreading to work machines. However, not all products come in electric versions yet. The most important thing for us is to ensure that the Port’s infrastructure is ready to support the adoption of new technology, that is, to enable smooth charging when next-generation products become available.

Switching to biofuels is another option for reducing work machine emissions. It wouldn't require anyone to make new investments – it could be introduced immediately. Slotte says that the Port can use financial incentives to encourage operators to switch to biofuels.

“If biofuel costs more, the Port could pay part of the difference or offer a discount on some other fees if an operator’s work machines have lower emissions. Building charging infrastructure is, of course, a sort of financial incentive in itself.

Electrifying work machines is relatively easy, as they are only used within a limited area, that is, close to the charging point. But truck traffic is another matter altogether.

Electric trucks for short routes?

When it comes to reducing emissions in the harbour area, truck traffic is the source around which there are the most open questions and the least answers. Euro engine classification has already been in use for trucks for a quarter of a century. Particulate emissions from trucks have declined by more than 95 per cent during that time, but carbon dioxide emissions by only five per cent.

“Trucks can, of course, switch to biofuels, which will significantly reduce carbon emissions. The basic combustion process in the engine remains the same and its efficiency has not increased at all,” Slotte says.

Financial incentives, such as reduced fees for low emissions, could be targeted at logistics companies.

“Electric trucks will definitely be introduced on short routes. Goods leaving Vuosaari usually have quite a short journey to the next stop on Ring Road III. Electricity is definitely an option here.”

A green lane at the port for electric trucks would make quite a difference for vehicles that drive the same short route many times a day.

“Although that would hardly be the only reason why a logistics company would switch to an electric fleet. But when you add all the benefits together, our measures could help to tip the scales.

Shore power and fast mooring for ships

The most important way of reducing emissions from ships in the harbour area is to use shore power. Viking Line already uses shore power at the Katajanokka terminal. Shore power systems will be completed at the South Harbour for Tallink Silja’s Stockholm-bound traffic in 2020, and for the West Harbour’s fast ships to Tallinn in 2021. The first cruise ship berth will be electrified in Hernesaari in 2022.

“We’ll be adding shore power capabilities to at least nine berths. The investment will cost the Port of Helsinki about EUR 1 million per berth, but shipping companies must also invest in similar equipment. The largest investor may be the electrical network company – it must ensure that the network outside the harbour area supports high power requirements.

The Port has already been giving ships environmental discounts for low emissions for many years. These discounts are calculated according to the European Shipping Index (ESI), which considers both climate emissions and particulate emissions that affect air quality.

“This programme will also be continued and expanded. The maximum discount has been raised every year and will continue to rise,” Slotte promises.

Automooring systems are also being used to lower carbon emissions from shipping. They enable ships to be automatically moored at quays.  More efficient mooring and unmooring saves time. Saving five minutes during docking doesn't sound like much, but it can have a great impact on fuel consumption.

“Due to water resistance, a ship’s fuel consumption increases to the power of three as a function of its speed. Once out at sea, a ship can sail slightly slower if it can leave five minutes sooner. A speed reduction of even one knot has a huge impact on consumption. Emissions will be reduced during the sea voyage rather than within the harbour area, but at least partially thanks to our investments. So we’re still talking about the Port’s carbon handprint,” says Slotte.

Automooring has a huge impact on Tallinn traffic in particular, as the equipment in one berth may be used up to six times a day.

LNG is already mainstream

LNG (liquefied natural gas) is an alternative vessel fuel that has already become mainstream. During combustion, it produces about 25 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than traditional fuels – and in practice completely eliminates particulate emissions.

“When it comes to climate (that is, carbon) emissions, the source doesn’t matter.”

“When it comes to climate (that is, carbon) emissions, the source doesn’t matter. However, particulate emissions affect air quality and therefore have a local impact. For example, sulphur emissions are very unhealthy for people. They need to be reduced in highly populated areas,” says Slotte.

Natural gas is already in daily use at the Port of Helsinki. Tallink Silja’s ferry Megastar runs on LNG, as will the Helsinki-Tallinn Shuttle, the company’s newly ordered vessel in the same size category.

The first bunkering (that is, tanking) of an LNG vessel occurred in Helsinki this autumn. An LNG bunkering vessel will start operating in Helsinki around the same time as Tallink’s new vessel enters service. The Head of Sustainable Development reminds us that gas is also a fossil fuel and will not therefore provide a definitive solution to the problem of carbon emissions.

“Learning the LNG process with bunkering operators and shipping companies has given our organisation a certain amount of agility in adopting new technologies. Although we don’t yet know what will replace LNG, we’re more prepared for it,” says Slotte.

He is certain that the cargo business will soon be under pressure to take environmental action.

“And customers are already demanding a lot, but they will most likely demand even more in the future. They require sustainable logistics chains. Which is why companies are looking to their logistics providers, who are looking to shipping companies, who are looking to the port. That's how the chain goes. The most progressive shipping companies already realise that taking environmental action now will make them more competitive in the future. And it feels good to know that organisations that are investing in a better tomorrow will also benefit from that.”