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Cruise ships in central London

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.

Since 2013, these central London moorings have attracted no more than 30 cruise ships a year.

In October 2017, the Royal Borough of Greenwich granted planning approval for a brand new cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf.  This did not include a requirement for an onshore power supply to be provided to visiting ships.

Shore power technology, which has advanced rapidly in recent years, enables vessels to plug into the local electricity supply when docked, negating the need for them to use their own engines and generators.

No single organisation has overall responsibility for emissions from river traffic – the PLA has stepped forward to take the lead in this area, publishing the first Air Quality Strategy for any UK port.

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

We are the first port in the UK to produce an Air Quality Strategy. We have also instigated a robust programme of air quality monitoring.

Launched in summer 2018, the strategy identifies 18 priority actions, two of which relate directly to cruise ships:

Firstly, we have committed to undertake a detailed, long-term feasibility study into the options for shore-side power supplies, evaluating the practicality, cost, sustainability and effectiveness of the technology that would need to be installed.

Other countries around the world have invested in shore power facilities, only to find that the vast majority of visiting ships are not able to use them. This is a situation we are determined not to repeat in London.

Secondly, we are investing £80,000 installing eight portable ‘ambient’ air quality monitoring devices to detect changes in the level of marine emissions at various strategic locations, in and around Greenwich.

A year-long study will quantify what impact cruise ships have on local air quality.  The data we collect will be made available to the public.