COVID-19 and the uncertainty around the future of the cruise industry makes putting a time frame on the installation of shore power facilities at Ogden Point almost impossible.
Nonetheless, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson is thrilled with the GVHA board’s recent decision to move forward on the estimated $24.8-million project, which aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cruise operations at the terminal.
Giving appropriately equipped vessels the ability to shut down their engines while in port and plug in to shore power to run shipboard operations will be a major development, he said.
“It’s an important step for our organization, because it is one more step that we can take to positively impact the environment,” Robertson said. “When you consider the environment and the social responsibility, it made very good sense to go to the next step.”
The James Bay neighbourhood would benefit from reduced ambient noise from running engines, and improved air quality, he said.
The decision to develop shore power at Ogden Point comes after completion of an emissions inventory by Synergy Consulting, and a nine-month study of options for mitigating emissions from cruise ships by consultant Moffatt and Nichol, both commissioned by the GVHA.
Using measured emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, it was estimated that use of a shore power system would reduce those emissions by 56 to 59 per cent by 2040.
But further work on the project will not happen until the cruise industry stabilizes, Robertson said. “The first step will be to see how and when the industry rebounds, not just for Victoria, but globally. And secondly, when we see some certainty to cruise as we’ve known it.”
It’s estimated that by 2030, roughly 85 per cent of all ships calling on Victoria will be shore power capable – as of 2018, just 48 per cent had that technology.
“The industry is moving there to a significant degree, but shore power is still in its infancy,” Robertson said.
The viability of investing in shore power also hinges upon the cruise lines’ willingness to pay for it. The GVHA started communicating the idea pre-COVID and received their support, Robertson noted. “But now is not the time to be knocking on their door asking for money.”
The use of frequency conversion technology, which allows shore power electricity to be modulated at the point of connection, could provide new off-season revenue for the GVHA by encouraging cargo ships and other commercial marine carriers to tie up at Ogden Point rather than weigh anchor off the coast.
Currently, only 16 deep sea ports worldwide have shore power available, but a number of those are on the West Coast, including Vancouver, Seattle and Juneau, Alaska.
For more on the GVHA shore power project, visit gvha.ca.