Hub Blog


Use our Port Decarbonisation Blueprint to accelerate the Net Zero Journey

Maritime transport contributes nearly 3% of all human generated greenhouse emissions and without intervention, this figure is likely to rise. Compared with other modes of transport, it is more than the bus and rail sectors combined. As other industries make inroads towards net zero, ports are sitting on a fantastic opportunity to become more sustainable, contribute towards national net zero by 2050 targets and to help facilitate the innovation necessary to enable this.

Offshore wind innovation is a good example. The sector is seeing rapid growth and the UK now has the largest installed offshore wind capacity in Europe. Tyneside will soon be the supporting Europe’s largest offshore windfarm at Dogger Bank, which will be capable of generating enough power for 6m homes.

This growth is in turn creating significant opportunities for UK ports from across the offshore wind supply chain, from maintenance and servicing to manufacturing. In addition, greater integration of the energy systems in and around ports together with offshore generating capacity can offer cleaner energy solutions both to the port itself and to connected stakeholders such as warehousing and manufacturing sites.

It sounds wonderful in theory, but the transition is not easy. There are significant barriers to achieving decarbonisation of port operations and providing clean shore power. There is currently a lack of evidence on where energy is used or wasted and what the best market/financial drivers for energy provision are. Also lacking is the ability to determine optimal energy vector mixes for their relative levels. For instance, load sharing, peak shaving, storage and distribution operations. All are key issues to be resolved before real progress can be made.

At the Port of Tyne, our own targets to become net zero by 2030 and all-electric by 2040 required urgent action to resolve these challenges. We have created what the Rt. Hon. Grant Schapps MP described as a ‘decarbonisation blueprint not only for why UK ports should transition to clean energy, but importantly, how’.  Our Clean Tyne sustainable smart port platform was created through collaboration between the Port of Tyne and Siemens, Connected Places Catapult, Newcastle University and the North East LEP, using funding secured through the government’s CMDC initiative. It is a real-time digital simulation platform for scenario planning and feasibility studies and we believe this digital platform will play a fundamental role throughout the port’s decarbonisation journey, by supporting the creation of business cases, scenario planning and investment cases. It will help us determine our future power needs and therefore allow us to plot a decarbonisation roadmap. It will also allow the project consortium to assess future technical, environmental and economic impacts.

As Grant Schapps has highlighted, our smart port platform will be very useful to other ports looking to impact assess decarbonisation. This is in part thanks to the technological skill of our partners but also because the Port of Tyne undertakes such a broad range of activities – break bulk, containers, cruise, dry bulk, RORO, warehousing and offshore wind. Not many ports in the UK have such diverse stakeholders.

The platform integrates multi-vector renewable energy information to determine which renewable energy implementations will offer the greatest benefits to the Port and what capacity it will need from the grid going forward, ensuring the optimisation and resilience of clean energy supplies for shore power, land-based infrastructure and other use cases.

The scenario planning phase will focus on multiple areas including optimised operations, grid compliance and flexibility, enhanced communications using 5G, the electrification of shipping and logistics, the reduction or avoidance of fossil fuels and the development of new digital skills. By using digital twins technology for this form of planning, the Port of Tyne can evaluate the benefits of introducing new technology solutions before implementing them, thus minimising risk.

Through initial work in phase 1, the consortium behind the Clean Tyne Digital Platform has identified four key intervention streams that ports must deliver together if the net zero by 2050 goal is to be achieved. These are: Energy Generation and Asset Electrification; Understanding the Business Model; Digital Platform Development; and Infrastructure Development. These are actions port operators should consider in the short, medium and long term to enable cleaner, sustainable and more effective operations

Through the Clean Tyne project, we have been able to apply novel concepts of digitalisation in real-world energy systems to help identify solutions for ports that cut across energy systems, marine transport, and data – all helping reduce carbon emissions.

Decarbonisation, whether in maritime or another industry is a complex challenge with lots of different stakeholders. As a big ‘system of systems’, progress can be difficult and the universal blueprint for decarbonisation developed by the Port of Tyne consortium can be replicated in other port environments and industries. As the Rt. Hon. Grant Schapps MP said recently, ‘where the port of Tyne leads, others will follow’ and we invite our colleagues in the maritime industry and beyond to take advantage of the digital decarbonisation platform to secure all our futures.

Author: Ian Blake, Head of Innovation and Technology at the Port of Tyne

Learn more about the Clean Tyne project and accelerating the transition to decarbonisation at your Port by attending the 2050 Maritime Innovation Hub’s Maritime Innovation Week, 13-16 June 2022. Visit to secure your place at this unique and free industry event.