ENVIRONMENT

London moves ahead with Green Tariff

A new initiative by the PLA to encourage cleaner, greener ships has been welcomed in the industry.

PLA, Tideway and Thames21 tackle a foreshore clear upPLA, Tideway and Thames21 tackle a foreshore clear up.

How ‘green’ can a port be? Always greener is the answer.

The PLA already leads the field in its proactive commitment to the environment but, at the same, it recognises that there is always room for improvement.

This year the PLA steps ahead again, with the introduction of a new ‘Green Tariff’ to encourage and support ship owners that are committed to improving their environmental performance.

London is the first port in the UK to offer a discount on port charges for vessels with lower emissions, and the move has been widely welcomed in the shipping industry and beyond.

Cleaner, greener ships, based on an Environmental Shipping Index (ESI) score of 30 or above, will benefit from a 5% reduction in charges.

“This new Green Tariff links to our environmental commitments as part of the Thames Vision,” says PLA environment manager Tanya Ferry.

“Our priority actions include encouraging the uptake of new and green technologies to reduce the port’s environmental impact. Air quality is becoming an increasingly high-profile issue, particularly in London, and this initiative demonstrates that we are starting to address it.”

The ESI, developed by the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI), ranks ships’ environmental performance based on emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide and carbon dioxide, as well as other factors such as whether the ship can connect to onshore power.

As PLA chairman Christopher Rodrigues pointed out when announcing the Green Tariff: “Shipping is the most environmentally friendly method of moving large volumes of goods and materials. Nevertheless, more can be done to make shipping even cleaner. As ships represent a substantial capital investment, we want to encourage faster adoption of new green technologies by giving an added incentive to adopt cleaner technologies.”

As ‘Custodians of the Tidal Thames’, the PLA’s overall goal is to reduce the port’s environmental impact and the Green Tariff is a very significant early move.

Tanya Ferry says: “We are committed to reducing the contribution of air emissions from marine traffic. We are also implementing monitoring and undertaking an inventory exercise to develop a baseline of what is currently being emitted, so we can demonstrate the benefits delivered by this incentive.”

The Green Tariff has been welcomed by the UK Chamber of Shipping, whose director of policy, David Balston said: “The shipping industry is committed to leading the way on improvements in environmental performance. We wholeheartedly welcome the PLA’s approach to rewarding those investing to increase their fleet efficiency and lower their emissions impact.”

A balanced view

Protection of the marine environment runs like a central thread through everything the PLA does. But at the same time, this must be balanced with the need to protect and support port operations on the tidal Thames.

The push to reduce the carbon footprint of all the PLA’s activities is ongoing and determined, with a target to reduce this by 25% by 2020. More meters have been installed to monitor energy use across the PLA’s offices and buildings, and to identify where there are any specific issues.

“We know there are some peaks in energy use and by monitoring we can identify the building, activity or equipment involved,” says Tanya Ferry. “We have appointed an energy manager to develop our energy policy and are also looking at extending the use of solar panels on our buildings. All of this is overlaid with our behavioural changes initiatives – the simple things, like switching off lights, reducing the use of paper, recycling.”

During 2016, there was another rather traditional sounding focus – litter. The Cleaner Thames campaign, was launched in 2015 by the PLA, in partnership with Thames21, the Thames Litter forum, Royal Holloway – University of London, Natural History Museum and Tideway.

This, though, is far more than just a tidying up exercise. There is growing alarm at the rise of plastic waste (bags, bottles, coffee cups, cartons) that find their way into the river. The problems of marine litter have been moving higher up the global agenda, with a particular focus on plastic materials, which can break up, move downriver and out to sea, and end up in the stomachs of birds, fish and animals.

In June 2016, Tanya Ferry was among environmental experts who warned a cross-party group of MPs and Peers that the impact of marine litter needs to be addressed.

The PLA removes around 300 tonnes of ‘driftwood’ from the Thames every year, but much of this is actually plastic. “We collect the equivalent weight of 24,000 discarded water bottles,” says Tanya Ferry.

“But it is just the tip of the iceberg, as we can only remove litter off the foreshore and floating into our driftwood collectors. Each driftwood collector catches between three and ten bottles every hour, depending on their location and the season. The sheer volume of rubbish is frightening and has an impact on the port and marine environment.”

The Cleaner Thames campaign will run for at least another year, and may be Ballast water The ratification of the IMO’s Ballast Water Convention has an impact for global shipping. The PLA is monitoring this, and working with partners to help trade continue without problems. Meanwhile, there are question marks about how Brexit may impact on the application of European environmental regulations, and the PLA is following developments closely. extended beyond that.

“We have worked hard to get the message across. For example, to commuters on the river via Transport for London posters, via artworks that were commissioned and by visiting businesses around the Thames. And there will be more focused messaging in 2017,” says Tanya Ferry. “It will take time to analyse what has been achieved but we have certainly raised our profile internationally as a port which is doing something about litter.

“The Thames Vision has brought the PLA even further forward in the environmental sector overall; we are stepping forward in roles that might have traditionally been covered by other environmental NGOs and regulators. We take our responsibility very seriously and go far over and above our statutory responsibilities. It is for the Thames and for everyone that uses the river.”

Marine mammals

The number of seals seen in London has been steadily increasing, a good indication that the Thames is far cleaner than just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, there have been incidents where people have upset these sensitive animals by approaching them or attempting to handle them, often with the best of intentions. “We are working with the London Zoological Society and the Natural History Museum to educate people to leave them alone and to understand the signs of distress,” says Tanya Ferry.

Marine Conservation Zones

The next tranche of proposed Marine Conservation Zones is due to be announced in early 2017. The PLA has worked closely with Defra to provide economic data about the port and emphasise the need to minimise the impact of any designation on port operators.

Dunlin murmuration on the Thames.Dunlin murmuration on the Thames.

“This is about protecting operations, while recognising the importance of the marine environment,” says Tanya Ferry. “As an authority, we are already doing a great deal of work, often unseen, to minimise the impact of operations on the environment.”

“The PLA removes around 300 tonnes of ‘driftwood’ from the Thames every year, but much of this is actually plastic. We collect the equivalent weight of 24,000 discarded water bottles.” Tanya Ferry Environment Manager

Ballast water

The ratification of the IMO’s Ballast Water Convention has an impact for global shipping. The PLA is monitoring this, and working with partners to help trade continue without problems.

Meanwhile, there are question marks about how Brexit may impact on the application of European environmental regulations, and the PLA is following developments closely.