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Sun 21 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Time to spark the debate

Steadily rising ship calls across region are spelling excellent times for ports and ship support industries.

Ship calls across the region have been rising steadily, spelling excellent times for the ship support industries, port management companies and the ports themselves. However, on a regional scale the industry is lagging behind other first rate commercial maritime hubs around the world when it comes to switching to alternative marine power for ships in port.

Operations carried out right across the Middle East, from Kuwait to Yemen, Saudi Arabia to the UAE mirror those carried out worldwide. However, medium and large scale ports around the world have been gearing up to provide access to mains electricity to cut down on the harmful and noxious emissions of docked vessels.

With many Middle Eastern towns and cities built around the rich heritage of centuries old maritime trade, population centres have remained huddled close to such heavy industry. What this means for the industry is that the ports, and of course the vessels calling there, are charged with a responsibility as environmental stewards as well as commercial operatives.

For five or six years the take-up of cold ironing has been growing in popularity worldwide, but in the last two years the installation in American and European ports has really taken off. With numerous environmental programmes and green or ‘eco' property developments sprouting up across the region, the pressure will fall on the maritime industry in time, so now seems as good a time as any to spark the debate.

Rather than running on diesel power while at berth, AMP-equipped ships plug into shore side electrical power - as an alternative power source for oceangoing vessels and supply craft.

AMP technology is often referred to as ‘cold ironing' and has long been used for naval vessels, Baltic ferries and cruise ships operating in environmentally fragile environments for many years.

Many of the ports which service the sea freight vessels plying the Gulf's waters will soon be gearing up to take advantage of a rapidly growing cruise sector. Stepping up to meet the expectations of an increasingly environmentally conscious tourist market will fall to the ports in the region, as many of the modern fleet of cruise liners will be wired for cold ironing.

Installing such a system requires little more than a shore side power source, a conversion process to transform the shore side power voltage to match the vessel power systems, and a container vessel that is fitted with the appropriate technology to utilise electrical power while at dock. It is also highly likely many of the new vessels due to hit the market from the end of this year will be ‘future-proofed' against IMO emissions regulations by having this equipment installed.

Depending on the size of the ship, estimates are that AMP will reduce NOx by one tonne and take more than half a tonne of sulfur oxides (SOx) out of the air each day the ship is at berth and plugged in.

Cleaning up our act has never seemed so electrifying.

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