Marine ports are of vital economic importance to Canada. Not only are ports the primary access point in the chain of infrastructure, connecting Canada to the rest of the world, but they’re also the backbone of the country’s supply chain, trade routes, drive economic growth and create jobs from coast-to-coast.
“The continuity of infrastructure is critical,” says Bill Jackson, marine sector leader at Schneider Electric. But Mr. Jackson says maintaining port infrastructure isn’t just about ensuring the operations are run effectively and efficiently; it’s also taking into consideration their environmental footprint.
The complex infrastructure required to transport products and passengers across the country and around the world has historically come with a heavy environmental footprint. Global marine transportation accounts for an estimated four per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. With shipping volumes expected to grow in the coming years, more companies and consumers are demanding their goods be transported sustainably.
New technologies are driving change at Canada’s ports, including energy management projects that bring both environmental and economic benefits.
The Port of Montreal is just one example of a Canadian port using sustainability to chart its vision for the future. Located inland, and with its connection to Canada’s rail and road system, the Port of Montreal can serve 40 million consumers in one day by truck and 70 million consumers in less than two days by train. It also connects the Canadian and U.S. supply chain and enables trade across Canada and throughout the world.
“The Port of Montreal cares about its community and its stakeholders,” Mr. Jackson says. “It has recognized that investing in sustainability is the right thing to do for our future generations.”
When cruise ships dock at the Port of Montreal each summer and other vessels over winter, they plug into a new shore power system that improves safety and enables sustainable marine operations. It means vessels can completely shut down their engines but still run their on-board systems — such as lighting, temperature control and communications through the energy provided at shore. The result is a reduction in pollution and emissions as well as noise for the people and animals that call the Port of Montreal area home.
Developed by Schneider Electric Canada, the system is part of a trend toward finding more efficient ways to provide large-scale green energy where and when it’s needed.
“We are helping ships and ports get off of diesel and onto clean electricity,” Mr. Jackson says. “It’s about reducing pollution; it’s about reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and, it’s about improving the health of port communities.”
Mr. Jackson, an electrical engineer, says Schneider Electric has a long history in the marine sector, providing shore power to the equipment aboard ships. The company was involved in developing standards for shore power solutions over a decade ago in California, where shore power is a regulatory requirement today. Schneider Electric has conducted some 50 deployments of the technology around that state and shore power is growing around the world.
But the continued adoption of sustainable solutions like shore power requires government support and the commitment of facilities like the Port of Montreal, which Mr. Jackson says, “has a phenomenal sustainability vision.”
Schneider Electric’s work at the Port of Montreal includes bringing power from Quebec Hydro into a substation that converts it to the right level for ships. It also set up the technology and infrastructure for the Port of Montreal to manage its energy and solutions long term and enable vessels to safely connect.
“The benefit for the ships that dock with us is very straightforward: it’s financial,” says Daniel Dagenais, vice-president of operations at the Port of Montreal, noting that shipping companies and terminals are also concerned about the environment. “If we can actually join environmental benefits to financial benefits — it’s just a great solution.”
Schneider Electric’s technology made sense and the port liked the support that the company provided, Mr. Dagenais says. As well as buying a product and a service, it got a partner as part of the deal.
“Schneider brought credibility to the project,” Mr. Dagenais says.
He says Schneider Electric's shore power solution helped the port reduce 2,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) annually. It has received a prestigious environmental award from the Quebec Transportation Association, which is given to projects in the province that reduce the environmental impact of transportation.
It’s this type of recognition that enables the Port of Montreal to “strengthen its positioning as a sustainable port and a leader in green marine initiatives,” Mr. Jackson says.
There’s an echo of this trend across the country. The Port of Vancouver recently installed shore power for its container ships with the support of Schneider Electric, estimating the project will play a massive role in reducing total greenhouse gas emissions at the site.
New ships are being built to run on-shore power, while existing vessels are being retrofitted to connect, Mr. Jackson says. The early focus has been on cruise and container ships, and he expects shore power to soon come to “bulkers” carrying goods like grain, as well as tankers.
As the rest of the marine industry works towards implementing the available solutions that embrace sustainability, the Port of Montreal continues to find ways to improve its sustainability goals and contribute positively to the health of their community. “It’s a lesson all industries can and should learn from,” Mr. Jackson says.