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Decarbonising the maritime sector: the "Clean Tyne" project

By Rhiannon Lamb
Aerial view of the Port of Tyne.

A new partnership project will use data to inform power infrastructure decisions at the Port of Tyne. The work aims to decarbonise future port operations and act as a testbed to support other ports around the UK.

The Department for Transport and the Government emphasised the importance of reducing carbon emissions form all modes of transport in their ‘Decarbonisation plan’ published in March 2020.

Understanding the transport sector

The transport sector can be broken down into the following categories: 

  • Automotive – cars, lorries, busses  
  • Off-highway – power, sensors, and electronics in agricultural and construction equipment 
  • Micro-mobility – personal mobility devices e.g. bikes and scooters 
  • Aviation – planes, UAVs, electrification of auxiliary systems
  • Rail
  • Marine

Marine transport covers an extensive range of activities, from recreational boats to large container vessels. As well as emissions from vessels undertaking journeys, it is important to also consider emissions stemming from operations in port. 

Ports are vital to the UK economy: around 95% of British imports and exports are transported via the sea. But they also contribute significantly to carbon emissions. Sources include:

  • Vessel activity during arrival, loading/unloading, movements and departure
  • Port plant, equipment, buildings, and port-related congestion
  • Vessels burning fuel whilst at berth

As a nation, decarbonising day-to-day operations of harbours and ports is vital to achieve our long-term goal of NetZero by 2050. To reach NetZero, we can explore green, alternatively-powered tugs and pilot  boats. We can also consider new approaches to powering port equipment such as cranes, straddle carriers and reach stackers. Connecting vessels at berth to clean, shore-sourced power could also help.

Creating innovative solutions to decarbonise the marine sector sooner rather than later will allow the UK to obtain a larger share of the global market for clean maritime technology whilst creating jobs and a futureproof industry.

If the UK achieves the goals outlined in the Clean Maritime Plan (2019) it could save up to 180–230 MtCO2e from 2020 to 2050 (domestic and international) being produced (DfT, 2019).  

Clean Tyne

Clean Tyne is focussed on understanding the future power needs of the Port of Tyne. We're deploying a real-time digital platform that will capture the Port's current power usage. We can then use the platform for scenario planning and feasibility studies. This will provide future power forecasts that, in turn, can indicate potential infrastructure development opportunities in and around the Port.

This will enable the Port to define its path to decarbonisation and ultimately achieve its vision of becoming a net-zero port.  

These research outputs from the project will produce a data-driven evidence base and will likely see the Port of Tyne becoming a testbed for other ports around the UK. Specifically, we are working to address the many unknowns regarding how a multi-vector renewables port can drive operational transition. This will also ensure wider compliance to deliver on the Government's Clean Air Strategy (2019), Clean Maritime Plan (2020), Maritime 2050 Strategy and Net-Zero (2050).

With a relatively short project expiry, the hope for the Clean Tyne project is to provide the key baseline knowledge, with the aim of attracting more investment into the maritime sector.

The Clean Tyne project presents an exciting opportunity to research and develop novel solutions to reduce marine emissions and validate models, alongside expert industry and partners.

Clean Tyne is a partnership of:

  • Port of Tyne
  • Newcastle University
  • Siemens
  • Connected Places Catapult
  • North East Local Enterprise Partnership

About the author

As well as writing her MPhil thesis, Rhiannon Lamb provides project support for the National Centre of Energy Systems Integration and the Centre for Energy. She has particular interests in decarbonisation of the marine sector. This stems from her academic background in marine biology.

Her research interests include:

  • Bioacoustics of marine mammals
  • Noise pollution in the marine environment
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Conservation of marine mammals

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More about Clean Tyne

The Clean Tyne project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. Announced in March 2020, and part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of green shipbuilding and maritime technology, the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition is a £20m investment from government alongside a further c.£10mfrom industry to reduce emissions from the maritime sector. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK, including projects in Scotland, Northern Ireland and from the South West to the North East of England. As set out in the Clean Maritime Plan (2019), Government funding has been used to support early stage research relating to clean maritime. The programme will be used to support the research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions for maritime and to accelerate decarbonisation in the sector.

Tags: Data, Energy, One Planet, Working with Business, Innovation, Transport, Alumni