European harbours electric future. The Island Patriot connects to shore side power in Esbjerg, Denmark. Image: Esbjerg Havn

European harbours electric future. The Island Patriot connects to shore side power in Esbjerg, Denmark. Image: Esbjerg Havn

Shore side power and battery boats are spreading across Europe. KIMO members are leading the way as they support the future of maritime transport.

Air pollution is a big problem is many harbour cities. At the same time, shipping is responsible for 940 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. In other words: about 2.5% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Shore side power and battery boats are two solutions to help reduce the environmental impact of maritime transport.

In order to reduce negative impacts on our health and climate, governments and ship owners are starting are developing and implementing a number of solutions. And the IMO has agreed to cut the CO2 emissions of shipping by 40% by 2030.

KIMO member municipalities are working to clean up shipping at the local level. At the same time, KIMO International is lobbying for meaningful action from national and international decision makers.

Shipping’s dirty secret

Commercial ships burn heavy fuel oil, which contains high concentrations of sulphur. In fact, it is even banned from use in most other industrial and consumer applications.

Due to of a lack of emission control regulation, the global shipping industry has become a major discharger of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter.

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 These pollutants contribute significantly to climate change and ocean acidification, cause acid rain and smog, and create damaging health issues for communities, especially those near major ports. For example, a study by the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre in Bergen shows that pollution from ships – especially cruise liners – can be the number one contributor to air pollution in the city centre.


Nobody expects the shipping industry to change overnight. Major ports, and local and long-distance ferries, are critical to the economy. And they provide millions of jobs along our coastlines.

However, because vessels are often in service for decades, decisions now have a big impact in the future.

Since 2016, KIMO International has been calling on the European Commission and EU governments to ensure harbours have shore-side electricity supplies. And to take steps to ensure that any new vessels entering service are equipped to use them.

Meanwhile, municipalities are taking steps to develop battery boats as alternatives to oil-powered vessels on local services.

Shore-side power

Rather than running their engines to generate electricity, large vessels can be ‘plugged in’ to shore-side electricity. As a result, air and noise pollution is reduced and, if green energy is supplied, CO2 emissions cut.

European Union law already makes installing shore-side electricity a priority. But some harbours are moving faster than others.

In Denmark, the port of Esbjerg recently installed a shore-side power supply.

Jesper Frost Rasmussen, Mayor of Esbjerg called it: “A big step in making the port even more sustainable”.

After supplying a connection to smaller ships for a number of years, the new supply, which has a 1,300 Amp capacity, is the first that is able to power larger vessels.

Port Director Dennis Jul Pedersen told the Danske Havne website that it was a “business necessity” to install the new supply because:

“More and more customers are looking for shore-side power connections.”

Norwegian Leadership

In Bergen, Norway, a major project is underway to provide shore power to all ships visiting the port.

Even Husby, Head of Environment at the Port of Bergen said:

“Today we have 21 connection points available based on the IEC standards for shore connection. Five connection points supply high voltage, 60hz for cruise ships, while the rest offers low voltage shore power for offshore supply vessels, research vessels and other types of ships.”

With the global cruise industry on hold during the corona pandemic, Bergen is still waiting for the first vessel to ‘plug in’ to one of the five high-voltage supplies. However, the city expects to see air pollution improve as a result of the new technology. Bergen’s shore power facility is the biggest in Europe.

But Bergen is not the only harbour in Norway making efforts to improve its environmental performance.

Boating of the future

The city of Arendal in the south of Norway has had shore-side power supplies for a number of years, thanks in part to a government grant of 15 million NKR. But as Ragnhild Hammer, the city’s senior advisor on climate and environment – and coordinator of the KIMO Norway network– explains:

“The challenge is that there are very few ships yet that make use of the shore-side power. The speed of change in the ship industry is slower than the roll out of new connections.”

Arendal is a leader in Norway for electric leisure boats. And the municipality is working with various stakeholders to develop charging points along the coast.

This summer, the first Electric boat festival ‘LYDLØS’ will be held in Arendal on18-19 June.

Cooperation is essential

When it comes to tackling emissions from shipping, there is one thing everyone agrees on: cooperation is essential. From ship builders, owners and operators, to the harbours, municipalities and beyond. Everyone must work together to clean up shipping.

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