BPA calls for 'credible evidence' on emissions as UK issues 'tight' air quality deadline

'Lack of credible evidence behind [Clean Air] strategy is concerning,' says British Ports Association.

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Updated on 23 May 2018 12:07 GMT

The British Ports Association (BPA) has responded to the UK government's Clean Air Strategy, published on Tuesday, claiming that the requirement for all major ports in England to develop air quality plans within the next year is a "tight deadline", whilst also calling on the government to produce "credible evidence" regarding shipping emissions.

Commenting on the May 2019 requirement for all major English ports to produce Air Quality Strategies setting out their plans to reduce emissions, including ship and shore activities, Mark Simmonds, Policy Manager at the British Ports Association, remarked: "This is a tight deadline, but many major ports will already be taking action on air quality, monitoring the sources or producing plans of action.

"We are pleased that Government has recognised that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this. Measuring the sources of emissions is always difficult and Government should recognise that ports are often centres of major industry and logistics chains and do not usually have direct control over nearby emissions sources."

Defending shipping's record compared to other forms of transportation, the BPA said it was "disappointing" that the government had not recognised it is cleaner to move goods by sea rather than by rail, air or road, and that it had "missed the opportunity to promote shipping as the cleanest way to move freight".

Simmonds argued: "Ports handle 95 percent of the UK's trade and moving freight by sea is still by far the most environmentally friendly way to facilitate global trade - as well as ensuring our economy continues to function and our food and energy supplies are secure. In comparison with other transport modes shipping is an efficient and environmentally sustainable option. Utilising the UK's hundreds of ports in supporting more coastal shipping has the potential to take thousands of lorries off of UK roads."

Call for evidence

The BPA also posited that the Clean Air Strategy "provides no evidence for its claim that international shipping emissions have a significant impact on air quality in the UK due to shipping lanes and engine operation while at UK ports".

"The Government have based some of their assumptions on shipping and port emissions on reports where the methodology has significant limitations, such as substantial guesswork around vessels' fuel type and sulphur content and assumptions on vessels' engines. There are also significant question marks around source apportionment in emission monitoring," the BPA said.

The association explained that during the time it has engaged with the UK government on air quality issues, it is "still yet to see much credible evidence set in proper context".

"The industry is keen to play its part and work with Government on improving air quality but this must be done holistically and using credible evidence," the BPA noted.

"[The] lack of credible evidence behind [the Clean Air] strategy is concerning," it added.