Global container handling equipment’s emissions match Slovenia’s 2020 CO2 output

The global fleet of 100,000-120,000 container handling equipment (CHE) is responsible for 10-15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum, the equivalent of the annual emissions of Slovenia in 2020.

Illustration; Source: APM Terminals

Electrification of port operations through battery-electric CHE holds the key to a net zero future, due to its scalability, according to a White Paper released by industry majors APM Terminals and DP World.

One of the key findings of the paper is that battery-electric is preferred over hydrogen-electric CHE due to a lower cost of ownership and greater efficiency. While cheaper than hydrogen-electric, battery-electric CHE faces affordability and accessibility challenges which can be overcome with the right actions from industry stakeholders.

The White Paper says that the tipping point for battery-electric CHE can be reached within the next 2-8 years. However, this does require immediate action by terminal operators, OEMs of CHE, and public authorities, notably port authorities.

CHE is a critical enabler of port operations and is used to move containers on and off ships across the world’s 940 container ports. In 2020, the global fleet of CHE enabled the transportation of 815 million TEUs, with a total value of USD 8.1 trillion, data from UNCTAD and Port Economics, Management and Policy (2020) shows.

“Let me be clear: we need to accelerate our work in decarbonization, and we need to do it now. I am happy to say the research we conducted through Systemiq and ZEnMo strongly backs that a tipping point for the electrification for [CHE] is within reach in this decade. We are now calling for action for the entire port ecosystem to accelerate towards this milestone. It is important for us to stand together, take concrete action with several industry partners for this to happen,” says Keith Svendsen, CEO of APM Terminals.

“Battery-electric equipment in ports is a realistic, achievable, and affordable way to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. Throughout my career, I’ve seen many industry players talk about various methods for achieving net zero, but I’ve never been so convinced by one tactic’s ability to accelerate decarbonization. It is my sincere hope that the findings in the White Paper can be used by the entire industry to galvanize real change with electric CHEs,” says Tiemen Meester, COO of Ports & Terminals, DP World.

The research made for the document provides for a number of actions that can be taken to reach a tipping point, including making zero-emission operation a requirement as part of new concessions in ports, and terminal operators and equipment manufacturers working together to scale up demand. Furthermore, suppliers can work on further developing their supply chains and standardizing certain components, with the support of terminal operators.

“Essentially, what we want is to provide a healthier, cleaner, and more efficient workplace for the thousands working at the terminals and living in the communities around them. And while electrification of the container handling equipment is one piece of the puzzle, we believe it is one piece that can be addressed relatively easier and faster than others if we work together and avoid unnecessary complexity”, says Sahar Rashidbeigi, Global Head of Decarbonisation at APM Terminals.