The UK's most polluted ports, ranked

May 20, 2024

Milford Haven, Southampton and Immingham top three lists for emissions of harmful sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

74,000 kg of sulphur oxides emissions were emitted by ships in Milford Haven in 2022

1,290,000 kg of nitrogen oxide emissions were produced by ships in Southampton in 2022

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Milford Haven, Southampton and Immingham top the list for emissions of harmful sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). In 2022, in Milford Haven alone, just 472 ships produced almost 100 times more poisonous SOx emissions than all of Pembrokeshire’s 67,000 cars. In the top 10 SOx polluted ports, 3,700 ships produced 30 times more SOx emissions than all ~1 million cars in the same areas.

More vessels in ports do not necessarily mean more pollution. Vessel type and size play a big part in how polluted ports are. For example, Milford Haven - a deep water port able to accommodate the largest vessels - saw half the vessel numbers and vessel time in port of Immingham, but 50% higher SOx emissions. In Southampton, 46 cruise ships - just 6% of vessels calling there - produced more SOx than 200 containerships, and over 50% of NOx and PM2.5 emissions.

Shipping pollution is not just an issue for the UK’s top 10 dirtiest ports. All residents of port towns are forced to breathe poisoned air because vessels burn fossil fuel whilst at berth - around half a million tonnes in 2022 - to meet on-board heat and electricity requirements.

T&E UK are calling on the Government to implement long-overdue policy and regulations to finally get to grips with the combined and increasingly urgent issues of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from UK shipping. The government has an opportunity to so in its forthcoming refreshed Clean Maritime Plan which it must not waste.

Essential measures include mandating zero emission berths and creating a shore side electricity plan in UK ports; charging ships calling at UK ports for their emissions whilst moored, effectively creating maritime “clean air zones”; and designating all UK territorial waters as Emission Control Areas, while prohibiting all scrubber wash water discharge in UK territorial waters.

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