Climate, Transport & Pollutants

The monthly newsletter of the Association of Industrial Engineers for Transport (VdWT) recently published a technical article on the topic of „Climate, Transport & Pollutants“. The article is a solid basis for taking a closer look at the background of the MaritIEm project.

Click here to download the article in German, or read the translation in English below:

What pollutants are generated in connection with transports?

Ports are mostly located in urban centers. All of the world’s largest container ports are located in mega-metropolises such as Shanghai, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, etc. and in smaller cities with millions of inhabitants such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Xiamen, Busan, Hamburg, etc. Depending on the geographical conditions, the ports are additionally connected with other different means of transport such as inland waterway vessels, trucks or freight trains. These transport not only imports and exports on the way to and from the ports, but also transit traffic.

The climate gas carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) are produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. The fossil fuels relevant to transportation include coal, petroleum and natural gas, with 95% of energy consumption in the European transportation sector being petroleum-based fuels such as gasoline, diesel, heavy fuel oil, etc. While the marine sector has significantly improved energy efficiency (20% less compared to 2008), road transport consumption is increasing, accounting for nearly 73% of total EU energy consumption in 2017.

Transport emissions currently account for a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions in both the EU , and Germany. The figures are stagnating or even slightly increased between 2015 and 2019. In order to achieve the set climate targets and at the same time improve air quality, drastic steps must be taken to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollutants that lead to environmental pollution.

Do emissions have an effect exactly where they are emitted?

The emitted substances (emissions) usually have an effect not only where they are emitted: the exhaust gases undergo a chemical and physical transformation and are exposed to weather-related atmospheric conditions. These altered substances are then called concentrations, which subsequently have a negative effect as contaminants of the air, soil and water. The resulting concentration hotspots – the concentrated levels of air pollutants – thus endanger the environment and, in their aggregate, have a strong impact on human health, as these substances lead, among other things, to respiratory diseases and, as a result, often to shortened life expectancies. In order to take measures, limit values (air quality index) were set for each air pollutant and the current air pollution was monitored with measuring stations set up in traffic hotspots.

How does a port city contribute to air pollution?

In general, the largest emitters of air pollutants in cities are: industry, domestic heating, public transport and individual transport. This basic pollution is aggravated in port cities by the volume of shipping traffic, the use of handling equipment at the terminal and the hinterland connection of freight traffic (trucks, freight trains, inland waterway vessels) and then often leads in the sum of all emissions to partial or even long-term limit value exceedances, e.g. of particulate matter (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or ozone (O3).

The main sources of pollution are primarily heavy-duty vehicles: despite comparatively low mileage, truck transport accounted for 41% of NOx emissions from road traffic in Hamburg (2017) and nearly 43% of all port-related CO2e emissions in Port of Los Angeles (2019). In addition to trucks, non-electrified cargo handling equipment (nearly 21% of PM10 and nearly 28% of CO emissions in Port of LA) and port rail (nearly 25% of PM2.5 emissions in Port of LA) as well as marine diesel-powered barges (nearly 6% of NOx emissions in Hamburg 2017) contribute to air pollution. During loading and unloading of ocean-going vessels, operation of auxiliary machinery also causes significant amounts of fuel consumption when shore power has not been or cannot be used.

What are the right measures for targeted action?

Various action plans are available to effectively reduce emissions and their concentration: Retrofitting or new procurement of trucks with alternative (petroleum-free) fuels (e.g. hydrogen, biofuel, synthetic methane) or propulsion technologies (battery, plug-in hybrid), electrification of handling equipment in port terminals or expansion of existing shore power systems for the laytime in shipping are some concrete measures that have been currently discussed. In addition to the associated costs, it is relevant for the stakeholders to know with which measures or combination of measures as well as with which prioritization air pollutants can be effectively reduced. Therefore, it is crucial to know exactly where and in which concentration the emitted emissions have an effect.

This question is being investigated in more detail in the MaritIEm research project. The selected measures will be quantified and evaluated in a simulation tool using Bremen and Bremerhaven as examples.

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