Rotterdam top port carbon polluter

The port of Rotterdam is associated with almost 14 million tonnes of CO2 each year, putting it on a par with Europe’s fifth biggest industrial polluter, the Weisweiler coal power plant in Germany, a new study ranking ports’ carbon emissions shows.

Antwerp and Hamburg come in second and third, while three of the top 10 polluting ports are in Spain.

The study, carried out by Transport & Environment (T&E), assesses carbon emissions from ships departing and entering ports from across the supply chain, as well emissions from activities at port like loading, unloading and refuelling. The shipping industry is a fast-growing emitter and Europe's ports have been reluctant to back mandates for clean fuels.

The post-Covid rebound in trade has seen container shipping prices soar, but even before the pandemic, where data is available, ports were handling more and more goods. Between 2012 and 2019, cargo volumes at Rotterdam, for example, rose 13 per cent.

Jacob Armstrong, sustainable shipping officer at T&E, said: “The shipping industry is making a killing right now. Ports are at the heart of this and their climate impact is enormous. Yet, instead of getting behind proposals to clean up shipping, like comprehensive port electrification and mandates for green fuels, ports simply aren’t doing enough to clean up the sector.”

Data from ship emissions at ports is also damning. Rotterdam once again scores worst with important port metropoles such as Antwerp, Piraeus (Athens), Barcelona and Hamburg also scoring badly on emissions from port activities like loading, unloading and refuelling. Alongside CO2, traditional ships pump significant amounts of harmful gases like nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SOx).

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