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The Port of London Authority (PLA) is working with the Mayor of London and Transport for London on new research to help it develop an Air Quality Strategy for the tidal Thames.

The project involves three separate research streams covering shore side power allowing ships to turn off their engines and plug into an electrical grid while at berth, emissions from vessels during trips and an inventory of all emissions from vessels on the river. It is being completed as part of the Thames Vision, which frames a shared view of how river use is expected to increase over the next 20 years as the city and port grows.

PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer, explained:

“We anticipate more trade, more passenger journeys, more sport and recreation and more people wanting to enjoy along the Thames. Our ambition is for this growth to be sustainable in the widest sense.

This research is on an unprecedented scale for the UK. Individually the techniques are tried and tested, but we are bringing them together to create a detailed picture of vessel emissions on the Thames. This will give us the data we need to develop the first air quality strategy for the river.

The majority of the research will be completed by the end of September and we look forward to discussing the findings with our partners and wider stakeholder community then.”

Deputy Mayor for Environment, Shirley Rodrigues, said:

“The river is an important part of London’s economy and at City Hall we are keen to see it used more for freight, passenger and waste movements while reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions from all river vessels.

City Hall strongly supports the PLA’s work to understand and reduce emissions from river vessels. The Mayor is leading by example by cleaning up the river fleet that he owns. When his two new Woolwich Ferries enter into service next year they will be among the cleanest vessels on the river.”

Operators working on the research include Cory Riverside Energy, Thames Shipping and MBNA Thames Clippers. A document just published by the PLA sets out the main areas of the air quality research programme:

  • Shore side power feasibility assessment – will consider the feasibility and environmental benefits of installation of shore power at specific sites.

  • Comparable journey emissions monitoring – gathering data on typical regular river borne journeys of passengers and cargo, to compare to the number of vehicles used, and routes needed, to make the same journey through London’s road network.

  • Emissions inventory – creating the first port wide air inventory for the Thames

The PLA’s air quality strategy development work is complemented by the UK’s first port charges discount for cleaner cargo ships. Introduced on 1 January, more than 20 visiting ships a month are qualifying for the lower charges.

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