ENVIRONMENT

Going for green

Two years after introducing the UK’s first ‘Green Tariff’ for cleaner shipping, the PLA is leading the way on air quality issues.

PLA Seals and Porpoises in the tidal ThamesA river for wildlife – sanderlings enjoying the Thames

Let’s start with a few ‘green’ bullet points for the Port of London Authority...

The first port in the UK to offer a discount for vessels with lower emissions.

The first port authority in the UK to deliver an Air Quality Strategy.

No more single-use plastics across the PLA’s offices, workplaces and vessels. From its highly praised Green Tariff for cleaner shipping to its ground-breaking Air Quality Strategy, the PLA continues to lead the way in terms of commitment to protecting the environment.

London was the first port authority in the UK to offer a discount on port charges for vessels with lower emissions and the first to deliver a detailed, long-term strategy for reducing emissions.

Now the PLA is moving further. From the start of 2019, the discount offered to ships with an Environmental Shipping Index (ESI) score of 30 or above has doubled, from 5% to 10%.

The Green Tariff, first introduced in 2017, has been used by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) as a good example in clean air strategy. There has also been widespread praise for the PLA’s Air Quality Strategy, which aims to reduce emissions while also facilitating the future growth of both port and city. Now the DfT has turned to the PLA for support in encouraging other ports along this path.

The PLA’s environment manager, Tanya Ferry, has been seconded to the DfT on a part-time basis to provide expert advice for all major English ports, to enable them to deliver an air quality strategy for the areas under their jurisdiction.

“The PLA is leading the way on the air quality issue,” she says. “The increase of our green discount demonstrates our commitment. We have been happy with the uptake of the Green Tariff so far, but want to drive further change and more improvements, while keeping the port competitive.”

During 2019, the PLA will be encouraging more cruise ships to sign up to the discount, and also designing and consulting on an inland version of the Green Tariff. “This is slightly more complex in terms of the environment, vessels and available solutions. But everybody needs to do their bit to deliver on our targets. For us, it is a matter of communication with shipping lines and all involved in order to drive through change quickly and encourage them to come to the port.”

The PLA’s Air Quality Strategy sets clear targets on emissions across particulates and NOX, the most harmful to human health, and also on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have produced guidance for operators, from large to small vessels, to help them understand the opportunities available to make improvements,” says Tanya Ferry. “We recognise that each vessel is going to be different and each operator is different and will need varied solutions to achieve the same effects in terms of emissions reduction.”

The strategy’s five-year action plan features a series of detailed policies, including exploring shoreside power for vessels; monitoring new emissions- reducing technology being trialled by MBNA Thames Clippers; sharing best practice; real-time monitoring; and continuing research.

Emissions monitoring has been stepped up. To enable passive monitoring of air quality, 11 diffusion tubes have been installed between Richmond and Greenwich; these can be sent to the laboratory for detailed analysis of levels and types of emissions.

Real time monitoring will be undertaken this year, initially in Greenwich. This system gives a clearer idea of the specific source and type of combustion that is generating emissions. The plan is to expand this to a network of real-time monitoring along the tidal Thames in 2020.

“We want to establish where the river is providing lower concentrations of emissions than surrounding urban areas – for example, for people walking nearby,” says Tanya Ferry.

In 2019, the PLA will take a major ‘green’ step forward with the introduction of a new hybrid powered pilot cutter, one of the first in the world. Being built by Goodchild Marine, this vessel will replace the older Patrol – which currently generates 10% of the PLA’s total carbon footprint. The PLA is also trialling the use of green diesel fuel in its harbour vessels.


ESI meeting

The PLA hosted a two-day meeting of the global steering group for the Environmental Ship Index in late 2018. Twenty specialists from ports and incentive providers around the world met to discuss the next phase in the development of the ESI, which is one of the key initiatives of the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP).

The WPSP is overseen by the International Association of Ports and Harbors, whose managing director, policy and strategy, Patrick Verhoeven, said: “The Port of London is the country’s first port authority setting out an Air Quality Strategy which includes incentivised discounts for ships based on their environmental performance on emissions.”

“The WPSP initiative is all about learning from each other, so having their contribution around the table has been invaluable.”


Cleaner Thames

The Cleaner Thames campaign was launched in 2015, by the PLA in partnership with Thames21, the Thames Litter Forum, Royal Holloway – University of London, the Natural History Museum and Tideway.

The campaign aims to persuade residents, visitors and river users to change their behaviour, bin their litter and recycle more, in a direct fight against the 300 tonnes of rubbish found in the river each year. The aims of the campaign have been thrown into even more sharp relief as public opinion intensifies on the issue of plastics and other litter in the world’s oceans. Nearly half of all the rubbish removed from the Thames is food and drink packaging.

In 2018, four years after launching Cleaner Thames, marine expert, explorer and TV presenter, Paul Rose, returned to London to look at what has been done and achieved so far and speak to those involved.

“The consensus is that things have not changed fast enough,” says Tanya Ferry. “We need to increase our focus on changing the behaviour of many citizens.”

A Litter Strategy for the Thames was launched on World Environment Day in June 2018; coordinated by the PLA as chair and founder of the Thames Litter Forum, the strategy moves the focus to prevention alongside cure and has four components...

Establishing a ‘baseline’ picture of the current situation regarding Thames litter;

Combating litter ‘pathways’ into the river;

Removal of existing litter; and

Changing behaviours through education and outreach.

Thames21 and PLA carried out an appraisal of the foreshore for the litter forum; the results were that 52% of areas achieved B+ and above on an index of A-E grades. “We want to make that 75% by 2020; there is a behaviour change to be achieved here, as well as maximising the removal of litter,” says Tanya Ferry.

“We have paired with DP World London Gateway to manage different types of litter collectors and achieve better data collection.”


Focus on habitats

An important part of the PLA’s Thames Vision is the protection and improvement of habitats and the living river, in the best possible way for future generations.

As part of this, the PLA is providing funding for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to carry out habitat work on riverside reserves, in South Essex and North Kent.

Birdwatching The main attraction – beluga whale sightings drew people to the Thames’ banks.

“This is part of our commitment in the Thames Vision to invest for the public good,” says James Trimmer, the PLA’s director of planning and environment. “We are committed to working with the RSPB to improve habitats for wildlife and facilities for visitors.

The PLA has created the first ‘natural capital account’ for the Thames, with a green ‘balance line’ and has identified a site in the Thurrock area with the aim of achieving significant habitat improvements within 18 months.

“We also plan to work with a university to carry out an appraisal of the work and demonstrate what we are achieving, on important habitats in the PLA’s estate,” says Tanya Ferry. “This would also underpin our commitment to engage with the community.”

The whale

The beluga whale which appeared in the Thames in September 2018 led to a predictable media frenzy, and required careful handling and traffic management by the PLA.

From the environmental point of view, the advice regarding any marine mammals is always the
same, says Tanya Ferry: “Leave them well alone.”

The fact that the whale seemed happy to stay awhile is testament to the cleanliness of the Thames, she says: “The type of fish it needs to eat are available in good numbers and it’s a relatively healthy environment for a whale to be in.”

The Thames is also attracting porpoises, which are clearly happy with the environment, and there is now a strong population of seals all the way up to Richmond. A common dolphin seen early in 2018 was the latest in a series of international visitors.

Single use plastics ban

No more single-use plastics: that was the announcement by the PLA in mid-2018. “We spent several months examining where we use plastic and how we can reduce it, and how we can eliminate single-use plastic,” says Tanya Ferry.

Early achievements included removing plastic cups and single-use plastic cutlery from offices and vessels, and
changing from single-use large plastic water cooler bottles to refillable mains-supplied bottles.

Milk now arrives in glass bottles wherever possible and caterers are required to deliver food in reusable trays, crockery and cutlery.

More complex, but being worked on– cable ties and plastic bags in some operational situations.

“It can be challenging for organisations to be single-use plastic-free but it is possible and the PLA is committed to making it happen.”