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Cruise ships in central London

We recognise the growing public concern about how emissions from cruise ships affect local air quality when they moor in central London.

Here’s a summary of the action we’ve been taking on this important issue:

Background

We operate three inner London moorings for cruise ships:  

  • Alongside HMS Belfast, at Tower Bridge,
  • Just down river from Tower Bridge, at George’s Stairs Tier,
  • And a long established mid-river mooring, served from Greenwich Pier, which has hosted visiting cruise ships since the closure of the Royal Docks, more than 35 years ago.

Emissions

At the moment when in port, cruise ships’ on-board generators usually power lights, heating systems, kitchens and other essential facilities. Occasionally they use one of the ship’s main engines. 

The resulting emissions are much lower then those produced at sea, when additional power is needed to propel the vessels through the water.

Taking a lead

In 2018, the PLA was the first UK port to produce an Air Quality Strategy, which includes number of actions that seek to improve air quality affected by maritime emissions.  As part of the strategy, real time monitoring had been planned for 2020 in hotspots across the river.

Due to local concerns on the impact on air quality of visiting cruise vessels at Greenwich Ship Tier, the PLA accelerated this timetable and installed an air quality monitoring network around the mooring to access the impacts of cruise vessels berthing on local air quality since Spring 2019.  A network of seven air quality was installed around Greenwich Ship Tier, with three situated on the north and four on the south side of the river in order to provide maximum coverage whatever the wind direction.

Real-time raw data produced by the monitor is available here. However, as sensor responses are known to vary widely, even across the same make and model, the raw data should only be considered as indicative measurements. We have published the first report based on the analysis of the calibrated data collected between May and September 2019 here.  We will maintain the monitoring network around Greenwich Ship Tier until February 2021, at which point the extent of monitoring and results will be further analysed and reviewed.

As part of its commitment to Net Zero, we are actively exploring options for cleaner berth operations when vessels are in the Port of London. We are seeking technical, operational and investment business partners to work with to establish the port’s first zero emission berth. Our target date for the berth to be operational is 2025, subject to availability of suitable technology and finance, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic impact on port trade.

Page updated 28/7/2020