On Oct 6, 2010, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom officially inaugurated shoreside power for the Island Princess cruise ship at Pier 27, thus making San Francisco the first port in California to offer clean shore power for cruise ships when they dock.
Mayor Newsom said that “With shoreside power, we can welcome a growing number of cruise ships and the tourist dollars they bring to San Francisco while protecting the Bay and our local air quality.”
San Francisco is the fourth port in the world to offer AMP (alternative marine power) for cruise ships.
Juneau in Alaska was the first one to do so, way back in 2001. Seattle has two installations which they set up in 2005-06 and Vancouver, BC joined in with two more in 2009.
Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach are all racing to offer their own shore power facility for cruise ships. All are expected to be operational by next year.
Shore power or AMP, also known as cold ironing, allows ships to shut down their diesel powered engines when in port. A ship on a half-day port call can cut down on large amounts of nitrous oxides, sulphur oxides and Co2 emissions using cold ironing.
The $5.2 million San Francisco shore power project is a joint effort by the Port of San Francisco ($1 million), San Francisco Public Utilities Commission ($1.3 million), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District ($1.9 million), the Environmental Protection Agency ($1 million), Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.
While it looks to be a winning proposition for all parties (and the environment), there are many hurdles to more wide-spread adoption of cold ironing for cruise ships. Most important, of course, is the cost – for building the shore power facility, retro-fitting ships with necessary electrical equipment, and the cost of purchasing shore power.
Retro-fitting each ship takes around $500,000. Princess Cruises has spent $7 million on equipment for 9 ships so far. Also, there are currently no standards for shore power systems. This means a port/cruise company has to make the investment with the possibility that it may not work on all ships/ports. The estimated cost in San Francisco for the shore power is $0.09 -$0.11 per kwh.
It also limits the cruise ships to this one dock and pier, unless the port can make the investments necessary to add more installations. That can’t happen unless the port has a sufficient number of cruise ships docking to make it feasible. This means that shore power can currently be a practical solution only at big ports.
There’s also the problem that the power needs of cruise ships, cargo freighters and tankers are all different. Los Angeles already has an AMP for cargo ships, which are the easiest since they can load and unload using shore-based cranes. Cruise ships need a lot more power when they’re docked. The worst power guzzlers are the tankers, which need to power ship-based pumps.
Another problem is whether the city’s power grid can bear the electrical load of cold ironing a lot of cruise ships. A cruise ship’s energy consumption consists of two parts – propulsion (not required when docked) and hotel load. The shore power setup in Juneau supplies 13MW to cruise ships. Compare that against the 900MW consumed by the entire city of San Francisco, and it’s not hard to see how this could quickly end up creating a power shortage.
It’s been 10 years since the first cruise ship plugged into shore power at Juneau, and all there is to show for it is 4 ports with 6 shore power installations. But if the cruise industry is willing to work out all these problems and find the funding, it could end up as a major source of emission reductions for the cruise industry.
Shore power emissions comparison chart courtesy Dock Watts LLC