By Julie Gedeon

Port initiatives — incentives for greener ships

Decarbonization | May 19, 2022

Discounts on harbour dues are proving to be effective incentives

Port Milwaukee is among the latest Green Marine ports to offer a harbour fees discount to vessels whose owners achieve certain environmental improvements. The StewardSHIP initiative was devised in time for this year’s international navigation on the Great Lakes.

“We’re following the lead of the Canadian ports in acknowledging and incentivizing the private investments being made by ship owners in environmental upgrades,” says Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Port Milwaukee’s Director.

The StewardSHIP initiative was launched after reviewing the response to existing port incentive programs on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. “We realized that a number of ship owners are heeding the call to make investments, not only to prepare to handle more business in the decades ahead, but to do so with new technologies that protect the unique ecology of the Great Lakes,” Tindall-Schlicht explains.

Port Milwaukee wants to attract those vessels. Of course, as a long-time and proud Green Marine participant, our port is always promoting and encouraging environmental best practices, but there’s an economic argument to be made here, too.

“Given the North American supply chain being pushed to its limits, the pandemic’s lingering effects, along with inflation caused by production disruptions, as well as higher fuel and shipping costs, every dollar counts in determining the route that freight takes.”

Tindall-Schlicht is confident that the 10% incentive can attract new and/or additional business at the same time it welcomes cleaner-operating vessels to the port in a win-win situation. “We want Port Milwaukee to be a U.S. leader when it comes to spearheading these kinds of incentives,” he emphasizes.

In order to qualify, a vessel’s owner must satisfy at least one of the various criteria in at least three of four StewardSHIP categories: environmental program participation (such as Green Marine); ship classification study certification (such as RightShip, which is a Green Marine partner); emission strategies and environmental impact technologies; and/or underwater noise technologies.

Port Milwaukee is partnering on the StewardSHIP initiative with the City of Milwaukee and its Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO). Under the direction of Mayor Cavalier Johnson, the City of Milwaukee is working on various ways the water-centric municipality can remain a global leader in natural water management.

“The StewardSHIP initiative is one of the ways that our port can work with not only the City of Milwaukee, but the State of Wisconsin and, of course, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers to contribute toward a comprehensive strategy for making waterborne transportation ecologically friendlier,” Tindall-Schlicht adds.

We also intend to market this incentive in a very proactive, robust way with the expectation that participation will increase year over year in perpetuity.

Adam Tindall-Schlicht

Ship owners must submit the necessary documentation before their vessel arrives at Port Milwaukee. “We decided to take this approach to give ship owners more flexibility rather than one set deadline at the start of the season,” Tindall-Schlicht says.

“We’re also looking at this first year as a pilot project and will most certainly welcome feedback in terms of what works well, what requires a reassessment, and what ship owners are working on that might be incorporated into the incentive program in future,” Tindall-Schlicht explains. “We also intend to market this incentive in a very proactive, robust way with the expectation that participation will increase year over year in perpetuity.”

And if other U.S. ports follow suit? “Should the day come when every North American port is offering some kind of environmental sustainability incentive program, I would be the first to celebrate that achievement,” Tindall-Schlicht reassures.

Quebec Port Authority

The Quebec Port Authority (QPA) introduced its EcoCargo program in late 2021 as part of its goal to continuously improve environmental performance throughout the port vicinity.

“Always striving to be an environmental leader, the QPA is pleased to offer this incentive to encourage ship owners to further reduce the footprint of port operations,” says Pierre-Luc Gosselin, QPA’s Director of Business Intelligence. “It’s among the various initiatives that the QPA is taking with the firm belief that the maritime industry’s long-term prosperity is directly linked to the way it takes care of the environment as it carries out business.”

EcoCargo offers a direct discount on Port of Quebec harbour dues for cargo ships based on the environmental efforts of their ship owners.

The discounts are determined by the ship owner’s level of achievement within the Green Marine environmental certification program, or the greenhouse gas (GHG) rating system established by RightShip.

The discounts represent a significant financial commitment by the QPA which expect about a third of the vessels calling on the port this year to qualify for some level of rebate. “Yes, it’s quite a lot of money, but we’re happy to offer this as an investment in making our industry more sustainable,” Gosselin says. “We hope it will serve as a significant incentive to ship owners to continue to do all they can to reduce the carbon emissions that are causing climate change.”

Already the response to the program has been positive. “Everyone appreciates being offered a carrot rather than a stick,” Gosselin says, “but this is not an easily obtainable giveaway either.”

To obtain a 10% discount based on the Green Marine criteria, a ship owner must achieve an overall average of 4.5 or higher from a possible top 5 level for its environmental management. Under the RightShip GHG criteria, there is a 10% EcoCargo discount for the program’s C rating, 20% for the program’s B rating, and the 30% for the top A rating.

As with the Green Marine program, all of EcoCargo’s criteria will undergo review on a regular basis to ensure that it remains sufficiently challenging based on environmental regulations, certification standards, and emerging technologies.

Prince Rupert Port Authority

The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) has continued to evolve its Green Wave marine vessel incentive program since it was introduced as one of the early such port initiatives in North America in 2013.

PRPA has established specific criteria for various levels of harbour dues discounts offered for emissions reduction. With the various criteria and environmental programs now available to quantify emissions, the port authority asks ship owners to provide the documentation to determine if a vessel qualifies for a Tier 1 (10%), Tier 2 (20%) or Tier 3 (50%) discount under the Green Wave program.

“We initially launched our Green Wave program focused on environmental certification programs, such as Green Marine, as well as on emission reduction measures,” recalls Ken Veldman, PRPA’s Vice President, Public Affairs and Sustainability. “Since then, we’ve expanded the scope and requirements in a number of ways.”

In 2017, discount qualifications were added for the reduction of underwater noise through ship classifications and investments in quieter vessel design and/or propeller technologies. “It has become easier to assess improvements in underwater noise reduction with classification societies now offering the expertise to measure the differences,” Veldman notes.

Port operations – like other industries – have impacts and we have a responsibility to try to reduce these as much as possible.

Ken Veldman

“Now that we’re in the final stages of installing shore power at the Fairview Terminal, we’ll also use Green Wave incentives to encourage vessels to plug into this electricity rather than running on their fuel while at berth,” Veldman adds.

While the investment is significant, Veldman says PRPA realizes its worth. “Port operations – like other industries – have impacts and we have a responsibility to try to reduce these as much as possible in the course of doing business.

As a greater proportion of the global fleet moves forward from an environmental perspective, PRPA also continue to raise the bar so that Green Wave rewards apply for leading sustainability efforts,” Veldman says. “What was once a Gold Star performance 10 years ago is much more demanding now, which is the nature of a good incentive program.”

Green Wave vessel incentive program, Shaun Stevenson, President and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority launched the EcoAction program in 2007, making it the first port authority in North America and the third globally to offer incentives for shipping lines that go above and beyond to reduce their environmental footprint.

“Between 2010 and 2019, participation increased to 40% from 10%, demonstrating the positive up-take by the international maritime shipping industry,” notes Ronan Chester, VFPA’s Director, Climate Action & Sustainability Leadership. “While participation decreased during the pandemic and the subsequent cancellation of cruise seasons, we are still pleased that more than 2,400 calls to the Port of Vancouver qualified for an EcoAction discount between 2019 and 2021.”

To date, more than 5,000 calls to the Port of Vancouver have received an EcoAction discount, which has saved various shipping lines millions of dollars in harbour dues while also encouraging reductions in greenhouse gases, air contaminants, and underwater noise.

“We hope to continue to encourage shipping lines to reduce their environmental footprint by plugging into low-emission shore power, using alternative marine fuels, and/or installing noise quieting propellers,” Chester says.

“The EcoAction program will play a role in our efforts to phase out all port-related emissions by 2050, in alignment with the Government of Canada emission-reduction goals, and as part of our commitments under the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy,” he adds. “Internationally, we plan to continue working with other global ports to improve the alignment between our respective ship incentive programs and the increasing participation among the marine shipping industry.”

European Union recognition for Green Marine indicator

Green Marine Europe and Green Marine’s waste management performance indicator have been recognized by the European Union as a way to verify whether vessels will be eligible to obtain harbour dues discounts.

“The E.U. directive issued this past January will require ports to offer reductions on harbour dues to shipping lines that make a discernable effort to minimize waste,” says Green Marine Europe’s Program Manager Antidia Citores. “The discounts will be compulsory, but the amounts will be at each port’s discretion.”

It takes approximately two years for an EU directive to come into effect.

View the eligibility criteria.