Ports are becoming recognised for their integral role in sustainable supply chains, highlighting the need to improve their environmental performance. Mark Nailer, Maritime Manager EMEA at Midstream Lighting, discusses how taking a pragmatic and incremental approach to making adjustments to port and terminal infrastructure can have a beneficial, cumulative impact at a time when operators are grappling with the challenges of split incentives, emissions reduction targets and continuously driving efficiencies.
Revolutionising Operations By Starting Small
The terminal of the future is a phrase that has grown in prevalence over the last decade. The connotations of the term evoking a vision of a smooth-running maritime hub with clean, safe and seamless operations. While future gazing is not limited to the last decade alone, an increase in environmental regulation, and consequent environmental ambition in many sectors, has heightened discussion on what a sustainable future may look like for the shipping industry. With Europe aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, the EU Green Deal specifically targeting a 90% reduction in GHG emissions in the transport sector and international regulation, such as SDG 14, forcing ship and port owners to scrutinise every element of their supply chains, action is inarguably required today.
Environmental vs cost reduction drivers
While there are port and terminal owners and operators placing environmental initiatives at the forefront of strategy - wider industry collaborations such as EcoPorts are evidence of this –sustainability is ultimately not always the driving force behind many port redevelopments. And although solutions such as total port electrification and AI are synonymous with the industry’s vision of the ‘terminal of the future’, such ‘big ticket’ changes can be a distraction from more accessible steps to modernising operations.
Similarly, with increasing competition between ports and the economic impact of the pandemic still felt by many, the predominant driver for investment in available technologies is usually a reduction in OPEX. However, when making those decisions in isolation, a lower initial outlay may not always result in lower long-term costs and may put port or terminal owners and operators at risk of moving two steps back in terms of environmental standing. Fortunately, technologies are available that can deliver both benefits whilst been much more accessible than the futuristic applications that we look forward to seeing develop.
Tackling port modernisation, can to a point, start relatively small and expand in line with needs, ambition and budget. Re-evaluating all elements of a port or terminals’ existing infrastructure is a good place to start to assess where small, incremental changes can be easily made to reduce costs, while supporting environmental initiatives. Those changes need not be seismic and can be as simple as upgrading a lighting solution.
An important legal and insurance requirement, high quality lighting is necessary to conduct critical operations efficiently, maintain security standards and protect workers, regardless of the size or location of the port or terminal. Accounting for a large portion of a terminal’s energy consumption and operating expenses, lighting is often an underappreciated asset.
For example, many ports and terminals still use economically and environmentally adverse lighting solutions, such as high-pressure sodium, metal halide, or other similarly dated technologies. This is despite more sustainable and cost-effective lighting solutions being available on the market, such as LED lighting.
To put this into perspective, although a metal halide lamp delivers a high lumen output in the short term, it will typically lose around 20% of its lumen output in the first six months, while still consuming 100% of the energy. In contrast, LED lighting reduces port and terminal energy consumption by over 70%, minimises light pollution and, due to its durability, reduces waste. The solution is sustainability superior in relation to cost, lifespan, and energy efficiency.
Despite using considerably less energy, LED lighting also delivers greater visibility in comparison to more traditional lighting solutions, increasing light levels by up to and above 50% due to the light clarity. For example, high-pressure sodium lighting provides poor colour rendering for CCTV systems, as well as potentially producing harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation, which can negatively impact workers. This is all while being costly to maintain.
Although the initial cost of traditional lighting solutions can be higher, investment in LED lighting provides a long-lasting and sustainable solution; the energy efficiency savings achieved mean that the technology pays for itself within 18 months. Straightforward upgrades to existing infrastructures can therefore not only result in significant cost savings, but also pave the way for performance gains in other areas of port operations, such as safety, security, and operational performance.
LED lighting will therefore be critical in managing the energy transition within ports and terminals, especially as owners and operators seek to play their part in reducing the carbon impact of global supply chains. As such, it is an opportunity for owners and operators to significantly improve environmental performance, particularly in terms of energy usage, no matter what the size or location of the port or terminal.
The energy saving potential of LED lighting is verified and tangible. In fact, we recently contributed to the Port of Tyne’s modelling exercise, and long-term analysis of its electricity network, to support decarbonisation. The initiative saw the port successfully reduce its energy use by 2.3 million kWh - eliminating more than 1,500 tonnes of CO2. As part of its clean strategy, we designed a unique high-mast lighting solution that turned only four of floodlights on at dusk. The six remaining floodlights could be turned on with a push button on the mast, to provide the higher Lux values when needed. Our Titan 420 series of LED floodlights enabled not only huge energy savings but a 50% increase in light levels.
Likewise, we secured a 65% energy saving by recently upgrading Hupac Terminal’s outdated metal-halide lighting systems on its cranes with 120 of our Docker 350 and 150 luminaires. The company recognised the lighting it was using was unnecessarily sapping energy, and the costs involved was becoming less sustainable.
Another case in point is Denmark’s largest commercial port - the Port of Aarhus (AAR). Our bespoke solution, which saw 230 LED floodlights installed as part of a new quay extension, significantly reduced energy consumption by 35%. This meant that within two years the technology had paid for itself. The notable cost saving has enabled scope for further investment and also improved visibility within the yard and quay, increasing safety, security and employee wellbeing.
Investing today, in the terminals of tomorrow
It goes without saying that the more time spent future gazing, the longer we’ll continue to live with avoidable inefficiencies, costs, and emissions. While some ‘smart’ maritime hubs have already spent considerable amounts improving sustainability and operational performance, like the Port of Rotterdam and Port of Vancouver, the millions invested is not a realistic sum for all. Discussions on the terminal of the future should therefore start by focusing on where small, incremental improvements can easily be made to reap economic and environmental payback, while the vision for the future gradually comes more to fruition.
Investing in lighting is not only critical to improving performance now, but in illuminating the pathway for other aspects of improvement and realistically raising the bar for sustainability in the sector.
This piece was originally published in the spring 2021 edition of GreenPort.