In her historic Green Deal announcement, European Commission President von der Leyen identified decarbonising transport as a huge opportunity for the European Union for reaching its climate neutrality goal by 2050. The shipping sector has been growing steadily over the past decades, responding to the intensification of trade links between the EU and the rest of the world. A study by Transport & Environment assessed that the European shipping sector emitted about 139 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018 and its sulphur oxide emissions overtook those of the entire fleet of European passenger cars. This has a heavy impact on European ports’ environment, especially those historically located in cities where a whole population is suffering from air and noise pollution.
In reaction to growing concern, the International Maritime Organisation committed in 2018 to halve the global shipping emissions by 2050. More stringent measures are being planned by the EU to impose a real transformation of the sector towards a more sustainable activity, such as the inclusion of shipping in the Emission Trading System or the review of the Energy taxation directive to remove favourable tax schemes for fossil fuels in shipping.
It is time for the European ports to abandon the fossil fuels ship and set sail towards a clean and sustainable infrastructure that plays an active role in the integrated energy system. Electrification of the ports' activity, starting with powering ships at docks, brings a number of opportunities for reducing emissions and for system efficiency.