Securing EU funds for Grand Harbour Clean Air Project
Infrastructure Malta secured €21.9 million in EU funding to implement the first phase of the Grand Harbour Clean Air Project, which will cut over 90% of the air pollution that cruise liners and Ro-Ro ships produce when visiting the Grand Harbour.
The Grand Harbour Clean Air Project (GHCAP) includes the development of the electricity infrastructure required for these ships to switch off their gas- or heavy-fuel-oil-fired engines and plug in to shore side electricity to power their onboard systems, including their catering and ‘hotel’ services, whilst they are berthed at port.
Through this investment, Infrastructure Malta will make the Grand Harbour one of the first ports to operate this kind of environmental technology in Europe. To date, only Hamburg, in Germany, and Kristiansand, in Norway, have working shore side electricity solutions.
A few days ago, the European Commission included this project in a list of 140 transport infrastructure projects across Europe that will be co-financed through the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Union's grant scheme supporting sustainable transport infrastructure. The Commission welcomed the project’s environmental benefits, including reduced noise and air pollution in the Grand Harbour region. It also noted the project’s contribution to more sustainable transport and decarbonisation, in line with the climate emergency objectives specified in the European Green Deal.
Following an international call for tenders issued earlier this year, Infrastructure Malta is currently reviewing the offers received to identify the contractor who will be supplying the equipment and civil works necessary to implement this project. The selected contractor will start works on site within the next few months.
Preliminary studies indicate that through the GHCAP, within 20 years Malta will save up to €375 million in costs linked to the measurable consequences of air pollution, such as impacts on health, the natural environment, infrastructure and agriculture. It will also reduce the impact of cruise liner noise and engine vibrations in the Grand Harbour area. These health and environmental benefits will make this project the second-largest contribution to improved air quality in Malta following the decommissioning of heavy fuel oil power stations in Marsa and Marsaxlokk in 2017.
A 2015 European report indicates that one cruise ship berthed at port for eight hours produces an estimated 1.2 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide, the equivalent of 300,000 cars driving from Cirkewwa (Mellieha) to Marsaxlokk. It releases 30 kilograms of particulate matter, the same as 180,000 cars travelling the same distance across Malta. According to the National Statistics Office, 372 cruise liners visited Malta in 2019.
Through the first phase of this Infrastructure Malta project, the emissions of cruise ships visiting Malta will be drastically reduced, improving air quality in several localities in the northern and southern harbour regions. By switching off their auxiliary engines, cruise liners visiting Valletta will emit 93% less nitrogen dioxide, 92.6% less particulate matter and 99.6% less sulphur dioxide. These pollutants are among the principal causes of respiratory illnesses and other health problems. The first phase of the GHCAP will also cut 39.6% of the cruise liners’ carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to the climate emergency.
The first of this two-phased project includes a €37 million investment to provide shore power (also known as cold ironing) on the five main cruise ship quays of the Grand Harbour by end 2023. Infrastructure Malta will install two frequency converter stations and lay a new 22-kilometre underground and subsea cable network to distribute electricity from Enemalta’s nearest primary substation (distribution centre) in Marsa, to Pinto Wharf (three quays), in Floriana, the Deep Water Quay, in Marsa and Boiler Wharf (one quay), in Senglea. These are the main quays that cruise liners use when visiting Malta. Shore side transformers and shore-to-ship connection panels will link this network to the vessels to be able to switch off their engines as soon as they berth.
The European Union’s 2014 directive on the deployment of alternative fuels (2014/ 94/EU) stipulates that member states should prioritise the introduction of shore-side electricity supply in ports of the TEN-T Core Network, such as the Grand Harbour, by end 2025. Infrastructure Malta is planning to complete the first phase of the project by 2023.
The second phase of the project will extend shore side electricity to Laboratory Wharf and Ras Hanzir (Fuel Wharf), in Paola. These two quays can also be used by Ro-Ro ships, which berth at the Grand Harbour to ferry wheeled cargo, such as cars and trucks to and from Malta.