There is no doubt that ports, as interface and service providers to global shipping, play a central role in helping the maritime sector to decarbonise. Ship owners and operators have a remit to reduce the environmental impact of the sea phase of the supply chain, but ship emissions are heavily influenced by the efficiency of their port calls, particularly for vessels conducting frequent cargo operations. Just-in-time (JIT) arrivals are widely discussed, but difficult to achieve. In part, this is because there are so many independent interests involved in executing port calls, and coordinating them effectively is a complex and multivariate task.
However, the concept of port call optimisation has gathered political and technological momentum in recent months. Many key ports are now using digitalisation as a gateway to greening their operations for the benefit of the entire port ecosystem. Ships benefit from reducing idle time by gaining headroom in their schedules which could be used to reduce speed to the next port of call. Terminal operators and harbour authorities gain by reducing the carbon intensity of each cargo operation and by increasing their cargo throughput over a given period of time.
There are high profile partnerships forming to collaborate on green corridors between international sea ports, offering a complete end-to-end JIT solution. The green corridor concept was formalised by the “Clydebank Declaration” which was signed by 24 member states at the UN international climate change conference (COP26) in 2022. Signatories including The United States, Singapore, Japan, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, agreed to seek partnerships between two or more ports aimed at accelerating maritime sector decarbonisation and develop future fuels infrastructure to support it. The consortium committed to a minimum of six green corridors by 2025.
Green corridors work by implementing custom regulatory frameworks, sharing information and infrastructure with partnering ports, and devising incentives for shipping to play their part in adhering to participation requirements in exchange for financial and operational upsides.
Clydebank signatory, Singapore, is a major centre for maritime trade and a port of significant importance to the global shipping industry. In 2022, terminals in Singapore handled over 37 million containers and just under 578 million tonnes of cargo. It also remained the largest bunkering port in the world, with sales volumes totalling just under 48 million metric tonnes, despite well-known global economic headwinds. In August 2022, Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) inked a memorandum of understanding to cooperate with the Port of Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe, to create a green and digital sea corridor between them.
The Singapore – Rotterdam partnership
The Singapore-Rotterdam corridor represents a powerful strategic collaboration which will accelerate low and zero-carbon solutions along the longest sea route to be covered by any green corridor scheme. A vital link between Europe and Asia, the project will be seen as a model for further development of digitally-enabled decarbonisation and energy transition frameworks across the globe.
Speaking to Thetius in April 2023, Saskia Mureau, Director of Customer Digital at Port of Rotterdam said, “The ports industry is entering the twin transition period of digitalisation and greening, which is rapidly beginning to merge. Ports are not using digitalisation just for efficiency and thus improving margins, but we’re also using it very much to tackle climate-related challenges.” As a result, “Data sharing is critical to decarbonising port visits. We have got to keep moving to a system where we share more between trade partners.”
The project is working with action partners the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping, and industry partners such as Shell, BP, CMA CGM,Maersk, and MSC. Much of the development is expected to mature by 2027.
Mureau told Thetius that the project is building on three main agenda items; just-in-time (JIT) port traffic, paperless trade, and streamlining customs clearance, to find ways to harmonise and speed up customer administration.
Impact on ship operators
From a ship operator’s perspective, participation in the green corridor scheme will follow a familiar format, delivered in a more mutually beneficial and user friendly way. Once a berth is booked, the vessel will enter a tracking service which exchanges live information between terminals, synchronising departure and arrival times between port of departure and port of arrival.
The system will use application programming interfaces (APIs) based on terminology derived from IMO Facilitation Committee (FAL) guidelines. Once an arrival is logged, a user portal will be available to the vessel operator or agent to book port facilities and services based on accurate and dynamic timings and without having to duplicate data entry. At the time of the announcement, then Chief Executive of MPA, Quah Ley Hoon, described how the project would, “accelerate our digital efforts to optimise maritime efficiency and improve supply chain resilience.”
This and other similar schemes around the world underline how important it is for all ship operators to review onboard connectivity to ensure that they are facilitating the stable, high performance connections needed to take advantage of the emerging JIT paradigm in port call operations. This and many other insights will be discussed in our exciting new toolkit for decarbonisation, where strategy and examples of best practice come together to help shipping companies of all types and sizes get up to speed with their decarbonisation journey and get fit for the future today. This report will be released at Norshipping in June 2023, accompanied by a live discussion with a panel of impactful business leaders featured in the report.
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