Portsmouth could spend millions on power for cruise ships amid air pollution concerns

THE city could be set to spend millions on helping supply ‘monster-sized’ cruise ships with cleaner energy amid pollution fears.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 3:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 3:54 pm

Portsmouth City Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has told The News the authority is looking into providing dockside electricity for commercial ships within the next couple of years, as an alternative to diesel.

It comes as the city’s international port saw the arrival of its largest cruise ship to date – Virgin Voyage’s Scarlet Lady – on June 21.

The move would allow visiting cruise ships to plug into a power supply, instead of using fuel aboard.

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Pictured: PCC leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson in front of the cruise ship, Scarlett Lady at Portsmouth International Port

Picture: Habibur Rahman
Pictured: PCC leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson in front of the cruise ship, Scarlett Lady at Portsmouth International Port Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘In terms of ships coming in and out of the harbour, cruise ships are a very small proportion. The ships coming in and out are mainly naval ships and the Brittany and Condor ferries.

‘Brittany is moving its ships that will arrive next year to liquid gas, which is much less polluting than what is used now, so that will significantly reduce pollution.

‘The city council is actively looking at having shore power for commercial ships in the dock so they can plug in while there, which is something we know will cost many millions of pounds.

The Virgin cruise ship Scarlet Lady arriving in Portsmouth taken by Daniel Haswell

‘Southampton had a grant from government of £10m to do this so we need to apply to the government through the Local Enterprise Partnership for the same.

‘I think we will need to make a decision this year on how we do that. This is important as we are expecting more and more cruise ships to come into the city.

‘As part of this we would also need to provide a source of power as well because some cruise ships will plunge the city into darkness by plugging in.’

The arrival of the Scarlet Lady, which measures 277 metres in length and weighs 110,000 tonnes, had sparked concerns from environmentalists.

Tim Sheerman-Chase, chairman of Let Pompey Breathe, said: ‘While quite a spectacle, this risks people's health due to air pollution which causes asthma, heart attacks and strokes.

‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson claims that the council has made “a lot of investment to accommodate vessels like Scarlet Lady.”

‘What a shame that didn’t include facilities to power the ship with electricity when it is in port – facilities which Southampton has invested in. Instead, the ship will now have to keep its engines running constantly while it burns the dirtiest of fuels, which would be illegal to use on land.

‘We already have 95 people dying early every year in Portsmouth because of our illegal levels of air pollution, is this blind expansion of the port without addressing its impact really worth more illness and death?’

A spokesman for Virgin Voyages added: ‘Protecting our ocean and being a responsible operator in our communities is very important to us.

‘As a baseline, we comply with all environmental regulations, and in some cases even exceed them (meaning, we do better than what is required).

‘In terms of emissions, Scarlet Lady is outfitted with exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) to ensure that sulphur emissions do not exceed 0.1 per cent. Additionally, our EGCS runs in closed-loop mode while in port, which means that all washwater is collected onboard and then treated at a shoreside facility. When we are not using the EGCS we are running on fuel that meets the 2020 global sulphur cap. Additionally, our ship is built in accordance with tier three standards for NOx.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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