Shore Power System Is Having a Huge Impact On the Environment

Ports are the central doorway for global trade and are crucial to the economy of every country. Daily, thousands of ships are docked at berth around the world, since it’s impossible and unnecessary to send all the vessels on sails. Besides, not all ships are meant for sailing. Some vessels are docked to guard a country’s port. Some ships, including cruise, container, and refrigeration, require adequate electric supply while at the port. The power is often generated through auxiliary engines.
Government agencies, dock authorities, and environmentalists have seen ships using auxiliary diesel engines polluting air of nearby regions, which ultimately lead to cancer, respiratory disorders, heart and lung diseases, etc. especially for children, elderly, and outdoor workers. Auxiliary engines use diesel for propulsion, which implies more burning of fuel and carbon emissions. To reduce carbon footprint, countries across the world are making use of shore power to provide electricity to docked vessels. Shore power is an excellent means to reduce air pollution and improve local air quality. It also helps reduce fuel cost of ship owners which increase competitiveness.

Shore Power System

Onshore power a.k.a. Alternative Maritime Power (AMP) a.k.a. cold ironing enables ships at a dock or in dry dock to use electricity from the shoreside power grid to run on-board electrical systems, such as lighting, communication, cargo pumps, ventilation, and other crucial equipment while turning off their main as well as auxiliary engines. Docked ships can be connected to onshore electric grid so ship operations can run uninterrupted while cutting fuel burning from auxiliary engines. The electricity is provided from the local power grid through a substation at the port and is connected to certain power connectors in the shore power system on the ship. Following North America and Europe, Asian countries are also adopting shore power as a viable option to reduce carbon emissions at port.

Why Shore Power System

The swelling interest in shore power is triggered by several factors. Docks authority have become conscious of carbon emissions generated from dock operations that put pressure on the ties between ports and local communities. Dock authorities need to be concerned about local communities as these communities mainly provide dock labors and can stall dock operations. This compels docks to initiate various clean port projects to alleviate carbon emissions. As more docks develop shore power infrastructure, the networking effect increases the utilization rate of the shore power equipment by vessels, decreases the cost, and strengthens the appeal of shore power. Shore power is also an output of active and effective policymaking and stringent emission curbs in Europe and North America. Since there is no other equivalent technology available, shore power is the system that power the most ships at birth.

The deployment of shore power is also aided by other regulations that curb marine pollution. Vessels entering the Emission Control Area (ECA), which involve the 200 nautical coasts of countries, are bound to burn fuel with a maximum sulfur content of 0.1%. The higher cost of sulfur reduces cost worries about using shore power.

In recent times, docks authority has seen a growing interest of shipowners in adopting shore power to control the environmental impact of the logistics chain.

Shore Power System Design

System Design
System Design

Shore power systems are block-mounted, containerized, or barge-mounted. One of such designs developed by Cochran Marine has been installed at seven U.S. docks. These systems require power metering and transformer tool to be fixed on the block and have a cable positioning device help docked vessels connect to the power grid.

Docks are also mounted with containerized shore power systems. SAM electronics and Cavotec have designed containerized shore power solutions that are comprised of a cable reel, switchboard, transformers, and power metering systems. Modular containerized systems are flexible and can easily be positioned to accommodate different loading or porting arrangements while mitigating the need for quayside space as compared to dock-mounted systems. Unlike dock-fixed designs, containerized systems are not available for use on cruises because of constraints in cable handling and the place of the shore power-socket outlet on the lower floors.

Barge-fixed designs need little or no dockside space; these designs are a self-contained electric grid that supplies power for decked vessels. These designs often use support fuels or technologies, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fuel batteries.

Technical Aspects

Technical Aspects
Technical Aspects

The onshore electrical and infrastructure requirements include an industrial substation to receive electricity from the local grid (usually at 34.5Kv) and a transformer to bring the voltage down to suitable with the ship’s electrical specifications (6.6kV or 11.0kV 3-phase, 60hz). A list of onshore infrastructure consists of- distribution switchgear, circuit breakers, underground cable conduits, electrical vaults, and power and communication receptacles and plugs. A traditional port needs several modifications to place the installation of shore power cables and accessories.

Ships taking part in the onshore electrification program needs the installation of shore power cable receptacles and an associated electrical management system. An on-board shore power grid includes receptacle panels, a voltage regulating board, circuit boards, circuit breakers, and a control and monitoring system.

The frequency and voltage of on-board electrical systems differ from vessel to vessel depending on sizes and categories. Oceangoing vessels (OGV) at European docks tend to have more 60 Hz electrical systems mounted on the ships, while smaller vessels (often not sailing to other continents) have 50 Hz systems. The power and voltage difference has a significant impact on the cost of the shore power system; hence, it’s vital to pursue energy reduction features and assess peak power demand in advance. Tanker ships, due to its size, weight, and requirements, need multiple connection points.

Table 1 Specifications of Shore power based on vessel type and size

Vessel Type (Length) Average power demand (MW) Peak Power demand(MW) Peak Power demand for 95% of vessels (MW)
Container Vessel (<140m) 0.17 1 0.8
Container Vessel (>140m) 1.2 8 5
RoRo and Vehicle Vessels 1.5 2 1.8
Oil and Product tankers 1.4 2.7 2.5
Cruise Ships (<200m) 4.1 7.3 6.7
Cruise Ships (>200m) 7.5 11 9.5
Cruise Ships (>300m) 10 20 12.5

Capacity of Shore Power System

The shore power system can be categorized into two divisions based on capacity levels:
• High capacity > 6.6 kilovolts (kV) large cruises, containers, and reefer vessels require more voltage.
• Low capacity 220-480 volts (V) smaller ships, including fishing boats and tugs require lower voltage.

Capacity of Shore Power System
Capacity of Shore Power System

The total cost of any shore power system includes fixed as well as operational costs. Fixed investments consist of the installation of the high-voltage grid, transformers, switchboard and regulator, electrical distribution, cable reel system, and the frequency converter. Costs for ship infrastructure range from $300,000 to $2 million, based on vessel type and size. Several industry leaders are also integrating automation in the shore power system. The main advantage of using shore power is a reduction in carbon emission and improved local air quality. Rise in clean port initiatives, stringent regulations, emission caps, and rising global concern to reduce the carbon footprint is driving the global shore market to grow at a significant rate. The market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 13.3% to reach $2.7 billion by 2024 from $1.4 billion in 2019.

Major Shore Power Installers

  •  ABB (Switzerland)
  • Siemens (Germany)
  • Schneider (France)
  • Wärtsilä (Finland)
  • Cavotec (Switzerland)
  • ESL Power (US)
  • Igus (Germany)
  • SmartPlug (US)
  • Blueday Technology (Norway)
  • Cochran Marine (US)
  • VINCI (France)
  • Preen (China)
  • GE (US)
  • Danfoss (Denmark)


1. What is Shore Power System?

Shore power a.k.a. shore electrical supply is the provision of shoreside electricity to a ship at port while its main and auxiliary engines are shut down. Shore power saves fuel consumption that would otherwise be used to provide electricity to vessels while in port, and cuts carbon emission, which ultimately reduces pollutants from local air.

2. How do you connect shore power?

Before connecting the shore power pedestal, ensure that all power switches are turned off, both on the pedestal and the boat. Then, plug in the power cable, turn the cord to lock it in and turn on the power at the pedestal. Next, go to the outlet on the boat, plug in the cable, turning it on once you plug it in.

3. What is a Shore Power Frequency Converter?

A shore power frequency converter is tool that enables a ship to be powered by the berth’s electric circuit, even though a ship may have a different operating voltage, which is typical for ships travelling internationally.