Powering the future: Reducing carbon footprint with shore power

During the 2023 GREEN4SEA Athens Forum, Mrs. Theodosia Digalaki, Technical Product Manager, ERMA FIRST, shared her perspective on reducing carbon footprint with shore power. She presented technical information about the necessary infrastructure on both the port and vessel sides and referred to the benefits of shore power and how it can have a direct impact on reducing emissions and optimize ports’ climate.

Different types of emissions

Shipping accounts for about 3% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization. However, CO2 is not the sole contaminant in the air. Sulfur (SOx), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Particulate Matter (PM), and Carbon Monoxide (CO) are all pollutants that have different effects on human life and the environment.

What is Shore Power/Alternative Maritime Power (AMP)?

In simple terms, while at berth, the vessel is connected to the mainland’s power system to provide it with the necessary electrical power. This indicates that the auxiliary engines are turned off, therefore there is no diesel oil consumption or emissions.

AMP benefits:

  • Reduction of air pollutants
  • AMP can have positive ROI depending on local electricity rates.
  • When AMP is combined with power source from Renewables (such as Solar or wind energy) the carbon footprint could be eliminated.
  • Vibration and noise on board is eliminated which means that seafarers’ life conditions are also improved.
  • Not using auxiliary engines at berth means longer life cycle and less maintenance costs.

Global actions to reduce emissions

#1 USA

AMP is being considered as a solution by a number of national and international organizations. The California Air Regulatory Board (CARB) has set an ambitious target of reducing emissions at berth by 90%. As a result, when at a regulated berth, all vessels must reduce emissions by:

  • Connecting to shore power.
  • Employing a CARB approved Emission Control Strategy (CAECS) plan: Containers, Reefers and cruise ships must comply by 01/01/2023. ROROs and tankers berthing at Long Beach or Los Angeles from 01/01/2025.

#2 European Union

The EU is also committed to promoting shore power as a method of reducing air pollution. According to the directive on new laws for the deployment of alternative fuels, ports should provide shore power infrastructure for vessels to connect to after 2030.

Furthermore, the new FuelEU Maritime plan, which applies to vessels larger than 5000 gt, specifies that starting in 2030, container ships and passenger ships in EU ports will be required to be connected to shore power to reduce emissions at berth.

Finally, as shipping has been included in the amended EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), vessels at berth can minimize CO2 emissions and stay below their emissions cap by using shore power instead of using auxiliary engines.

#3 IMO Regulations

In an effort to promote shore power, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has produced Draft interim guidelines on the safe operation of Onshore Power Supply (OPS) systems.

There is also a lot of talk about the EEXI (Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index) and CII (Carbon Intensity Indicator) standards, which went into effect this year, forcing stakeholders to comply with and implement steps to reduce emissions. Using sore power serves as a method to maximize CII.

When shore electricity is paired with alternative maritime power resources such as solar or wind energy as the primary energy source at ports, emissions can be drastically decreased.

Cold ironing

To establish a shore power connection, infrastructure is required on both shore and vessel side. On the port side the mainland’s power source is connected to a local electrical substation at berth through a cabling system.

Between vessel and port infrastructure, there is an interface. This interface consists of a cable management system, which includes the cables and the connectors and a socket receiving box with high voltage sockets. The location of the Cable management system can be either on board or on port depending on the vessel type.

On the vessel side, there is a High Voltage Switchboard, with the required circuit breakers and earth switches for the protection of people and equipment. Usually, power distribution on board is at 440V, therefore a power transformer sized according to vessel’s load demand must be installed.

Next is the low voltage shore incoming panel, which is required for the connection to vessel’s MSB. All equipment on board is monitored and controlled by the Shore Connection Control Panel. Shore Control panel performs the control of the switchgear, monitors all alarms, and performs the automatic synchronization procedure with vessel power monitoring system.

Cold ironing shore power installations can help the electricity rates at ports, and they have proven to be a significant investment.

Why cold ironing?

  •  Causes significant reduction of air emissions (SOx, NOx, PM) and improves port’s microclimate
  • Reduction of greenhouse gases when used in combination with Renewable Energy Sources
  • Raise in oil price has led shipowners seek alternative power sources
  • Elimination of noise and vibration improves working conditions for seafarers
  • Enabling maintenance of auxiliary engines while idle, extension of life of auxiliary gens and reduction of maintenance costs

Type of installations

AMP setups vary depending on the power demand and the type of vessel. In each case, the equipment is unique. For example, for container vessels, the cable management system must be installed onboard, whereas for other types of vessels, it must be installed on the shore side.

Safety and risk analysis

Safety first

When designing an AMP installation, regardless of the arrangement, it is critical to remember that High Voltage is present. The people and equipment on board must be kept safe.

Safety measurements as described in ISO/IEE/IEC 80005-1:2019:

  • Protection Relay (relevant ANSI codes)
  • Interlocks between MV switchgear and earthing switches
  • The design of earthing and equipotential bonding
  • The design of hardwire safety loop connection with shore for emergency situations

As a result, it is critical that a risk assessment be performed prior to installation. Furthermore, risk assessment can aid in the development of a more effective maintenance plan. The evaluation could take the following form:


In a nutshell, reducing emissions and decarbonizing the maritime industry is a serious issue that shore power can help with. Shore power is a sustainable solution, and the necessary technology is available, however, safety must always come first.

Above article has been edited from Mrs. Theodosia Digalaki’s presentation during the 2023 GREEN4SEA Athens Forum.

Explore more by watching her video presentation here below

The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.

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