Shore power for ships
At CTH third test run also successful. ‘APL Boston’ received shore power for two hours
© Hamburg Port Authority / Andreas Schmidt-Wiethoff

Shore power for ships

The Port of Hamburg is leading the way in the EU when it comes to shore-side power supply for container and cruise ships. It is now the first EU port to establish the conditions for container ships to power down their diesel engines while at berth.

The shore-side electricity initiative in the Port of Hamburg is progressing into its next phase. The operator, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), is expanding the network to include all major emitters. Hanno Bromeis, head of the Port Energy Solutions division responsible for the plants, explains: "This includes the four large container terminals Eurogate, Burchardkai, Tollerort, and Altenwerder, as well as the cruise centers Steinwerder and HafenCity. By the time the plant opens there in 2025, we will have fully covered the major emitters in these two ship classes with ten shore power connections for container ships and four connections for cruise ships.

Commissioning with the manufacturers Siemens and PowerCon will follow in quick succession over the next few months. Bromeis explains: "2024 will be our ramp-up phase, during which we also want to review the operational processes and improve them based on practical experience. From 2025, we will be able to meet the expected demand with an optimized overall system." Hamburg initiated its first pilot plant for shore-side electricity in Altona in 2016. Located in the center of Hamburg, it ensures emission-free berthing times for cruise ships, with no air pollutants, greenhouse gases, or noise emissions.

Mandatory use across the EU from 2030

The uptake of this offer will initially depend on shipping companies, with mandatory use across the EU from 2030 for container and cruise ships of more than 5,000 gross tonnage (GT). From this date, all quayside combustion processes will also be banned. Together with the other ports in the North Range, the Port of Hamburg plans to examine in detail how the facilities put into operation will be used over the next few years and, if necessary, take accompanying measures in advance. Bromeis is already planning the next steps to ensure that the port fully meets the requirements of the EU's "Fit For 55" climate protection package, including smaller container ships up to 5,000 GT. He states, "When it comes to berths in the next expansion phase, we are faced with the challenge of accommodating container ships with high frequency, short berthing times, and lower energy consumption."

Hamburg wants more - climate neutral by 2045

Simultaneously, the HPA is exploring the electrification of inland navigation, inner harbor traffic, and other ship segments such as tankers, RoRo, and multi-purpose vessels, even if this is not yet feasible. However, the holistic approach is crucial for the HPA to achieve the city's climate goals. Hamburg aims to be climate neutral by 2045, with the decarbonization of the city's port being an integral part of this sustainable scenario.

Entirely green power

"The electricity supplied to the HPA by the municipal utility Hamburger Energiewerke is 100% green", assures Bromeis. Consumption is highly dependent on laytime, the type of ship, and the cargo. He explains, "A cruise ship consumes significantly more electricity than a container ship, but the laytime is shorter." He estimates that the average power consumption of a cruise ship during laytime is between 50,000 to 60,000 kWh, while that of a container ship ranges from 140,000 to 150,000 kWh. When all classes of container and cruise ships over 5,000 GT are connected to the port grid in 2030, the demand for electricity will be immense. "Our estimate for the total electricity demand in 2030 is 130 to 140 GWh."

According to the HPA manager, there will be sufficient electricity capacity available in the future. As an industrial port, Hamburg boasts a robust power grid, which will be expanded due to extensive electrification. The facilities are already designed to charge batteries if necessary, which is particularly intriguing for carbon-neutral cruises and smaller ships in the short-sea segment.

Combination of fixed and variable price

According to the HPA, the price of shore power will be comprised of two components: the variable electricity price and the fixed service component. Unlike the private market, fixed prices for electricity are currently deemed impractical due to demand volatility. Bromeis explians: "For a fixed price, shipowners would have to commit to fixed volumes at specific times. In practice, however, this is difficult to achieve, as port calls—especially those of container ships—often deviate from the schedule." This leaves the HPA with no option but to buy the electricity on the stock market, with price fluctuations of up to 50 per cent during the day.

Many shipping companies have experience with shore-side electricity

Many container shipping lines calling at Hamburg have already gained experience with shore-side power in non-European ports. In Los Angeles, shore-side power has been mandatory since 2014, and some Asian ports already mandate the switch to shore-side power. Accordingly, shipping companies familiar with shore-side power are interested in the Hamburg test phase, including Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, Cosco, OOCL, and ONE. Hapag-Lloyd, open to the proactive use of the environmentally friendly alternative, currently operates the majority of its shore-side electricity-capable fleet in ports where shore-side electricity is already mandatory. However, Hapag-Lloyd notes that ships capable of using shore-side power are already in operation for 81 calls in Hamburg this year. In terms of further preparations, Hapag-Lloyd spokesman Nikolas Fischer remarks, "Our entire Dortmund class was equipped with shore power at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. All newbuildings will also be equipped with shore power connections."

Shore power for ships
Ready to roll: Different cable lengths are required depending on the position of the connection on the vessel.
© Hamburg Port Authority, Andreas Schmidt-Wiethoff

„As soon as HPA
gives the go-ahead,

we will unpack
our plugs."

Jans Holst
ONE Director Germany & Central Europe

Waiting for the green light

Ocean Network Express (ONE) also aligns with the green perspective. Jan Holst, ONE Director Germany & Central Europe, emphasizes, "All our 24,000 TEU newbuildings calling at Hamburg are equipped for shore power and have the necessary equipment on board." Holst indicates that ONE could commence at any time, contingent on the availability of shore power equipment. "As soon as berth 3/4 at Burchardkai, which we use, is connected to the system and the HPA gives the green light, we'll unpack our plug."

Danish shipping company Maersk is aiming to lead the way. It has already achieved a milestone: the ship integration test on the Maersk Condor at the end of August marked the first time in Europe that a container ship was connected to shore power. "We are very interested because supplying our ships with green shore power is a crucial aspect on the path to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040," says a Maersk spokesperson. A retrofit program has been initiated to gradually equip the vessels with shore power. Regarding newbuildings, he mentions, "Our new green methanol ships will also use shore-side electricity, as this seems to be a much more efficient use of energy than converting green methanol back into electricity on-board generators."

The Chinese shipping company Yang Ming currently makes calls at the Port of Hamburg with two shore-powered vessels per quarter. A roadmap for converting the container fleet is still in the works, according to Sally Lee, Senior Manager of Yang Ming Europe Operation.

Hurdles for feederships

Andreas Blankenburg, Head of the Operations Department at Unifeeder Germany, notes that there are no viable concepts for feeder vessels on the part of port authorities or terminals yet. One obstacle for feeder shipping, he points out, are the ships' short dwell times. He elaborates, "With three to four terminal calls in the Port of Hamburg, we are only at a terminal for one to two hours. The effort involved in connecting and disconnecting a ship to shore power each time for this short period is high." Additionally, it is not yet clear at what height the shore power equipment can be installed on the feeder vessels. Due to their size and depending on the tidal range, there would be a risk of the technology being below the quay wall when the water level is low.

The prerequisites: standards and synchronisation

Martin Kröger, Managing Director of the German Shipowners' Association (VDR), points to another crucial condition that applies universally: "The biggest challenge for maritime shipping concerning the use of shore power is the fact that shore power connections have not yet been fully standardized internationally. This is because a shipping company can only make the costly investment in an on-board shore power system if shore power is safely available in a port and technically usable for a ship." Dr. Alexander Geisler of the Hamburg and Bremen Shipbrokers' Association (VHBS) mentions another requirement: "The connections and, above all, the amount of electricity must be available in the ports. We, therefore, welcome the ongoing efforts to create the necessary infrastructure. To avoid distortions of competition between ports, the VHBS believes it is necessary for the legal obligations to accept shore-side electricity to come into force simultaneously in the ports of Antwerp, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, and Hamburg. Overall, Geisler believes the industry is making good progress. "More than half of the emissions savings achieved by merchant shipping in recent years are due to the use of modern, large designs." By creating opportunities to accept shore power in ports, this path could be continued.