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Portsmouth secures £19.8m grant for shore power across three berths

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The Sea Change project will lead the design, build and operation of a shore power system across three berths at Portsmouth International Port
Portsmouth International Port secured £19.8m of government funding to install shore power at its three busiest berths, enabling cruise ships to plug in.

Berth 2 is the port’s primary cruise berth; berths 3 & 4 – also selected to deliver shore power – are primarily for ferry traffic but occasionally receive cruise vessels. 

Shore power at all three berths in 2025 

Shore power will be available at all three from April 2025 and it is estimated that from 2027, the technology will save over 20,000t of CO2 per annum – equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of around 2,500 UK households or 11,111 round trips by plane from London to New York. 

A consortium of academics, marine specialists and technology SMEs from the University of Portsmouth, MSE International, B4T, IOTICS and Swanbarton will come together alongside the port and Brittany Ferries to deliver the Sea Change project. 

The award was granted by the Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure (ZEVI) competition, funded by the UK Government and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency, which provides money and support to organisations to make new products and services.

The project will additionally help to develop the necessary skills for green shipping and infrastructure, design, manufacturing and maintenance capability.

‘A UK first’

Stephen Watkyns, technical director at Portsmouth International Port, said, ‘Once delivered, this revolutionary multi-user, multi-berth shore power facility will be a UK first. It means we’ll be able to provide shore power for ships on three of our berths, including providing power for the hybrid Brittany Ferries ships coming in 2025.

I’d like to thank the team at the port and our partners in the Sea Change consortium for all their hard work getting this bid approved. 

‘This project is another huge step forward for our ambitions to be net carbon neutral by 2030 and eliminate emissions by 2050.’ 

Improving air quality

The University of Portsmouth brings expertise in data science, smart power grids, innovation, and environmental impact analysis. Dr David Hutchinson, associate professor in environmental innovation, and innovation and impact development manager for the Faculty of Technology at the University of Portsmouth, stated, ‘We are very excited and proud to be part of this project to develop innovative and sustainable power systems, to bring about significant reduction in carbon emissions and improvement in air quality in and around Portsmouth.

‘Sea Change underscores the critical importance of the university and city joining forces to combat climate change. This collaboration not only strengthens our resolve to address the pressing challenges of our era but also showcases the profound impact that unity and innovation can have on our shared commitment to a sustainable future. 

‘Together, we're charting a course toward a cleaner, more resilient world, where the University of Portsmouth and our port-city stand as exemplars of climate-conscious leadership.’ 

Cllr. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, cabinet member with responsibility for the port at Portsmouth City Council, said that ‘Improving air quality is one of the most pressing issues facing Portsmouth today.’ He said, ‘Across the council we’re undertaking a huge range of projects to combat harmful emissions, which includes already approving a massive upgrade of the electricity supply to the port so this project can happen.’ 

According to Vernon-Jackson, the development will also bring new high-skilled jobs and investment to Portsmouth. It will safeguard existing jobs through upskilling and create new high-skill opportunities, driving growth and investment across the region.

MSE International’s CEO Dr Jonathan Williams explained, ‘Decarbonising the maritime industry is a challenge that we have to meet with urgency. MSE International is delighted to continue its collaboration with the port to assist its transition away from fossil fuels. The Sea Change project will allow us to map the way ahead, with the technologies and business models that will underpin success.’ It is MSE International’s task to use their experience to stimulate investment across private and public sectors and develop commercialisation strategies for the project. 

Jellyfish sensors and more enhanced technology 

Alex Barter, founder of B4T, described the project as a major step forward in advancing decarbonisation efforts and improving health outcomes. ‘It also puts us on the map as pioneers in this field,’ Barter added. ‘We eagerly anticipate the development of our first-of-a-kind software and dashboard, which will ensure smooth operation, and the progress we will make with our Jellyfish sensors in generating energy data.’

The founder went on to describe B4T’s ultimate goal: ‘To export the valuable knowledge captured through the dashboard to other ports, making this decarbonising technology a standard practice across the industry. By doing so, we can contribute to making sustainable practices the norm.’ 

While B4T will produce new smart sensors for the project, IOTICS will create a ‘digital twin ecosystem’ which will allow all the project partners to select and share data securely, while Swanbarton will supply the smart control software for energy storage. All these new technologies will complement the shore power system, making it an attractive and scalable solution which can be used by ports in the UK and abroad.

Ali Nicholl, part of IOTICS founding team, asserted, ‘A clean maritime industry requires secure, flexible digital infrastructure. Selective sharing of data across supply chains, spanning multiple sectors, will be the enabling capability…’ 

Swanbarton MD Anthony Price noted, ‘...Our team at Swanbarton has developed a suite of tools to plan and manage power, such as our battery optimiser which is already in use at Portsmouth International Port. As part of the Sea Change project team, we are continuing our collaboration with the port to use our systems to optimise the use of electricity, particularly from renewable sources.’ 

ZEVI / UK SHORE funding 

Sea Change is part of the Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure competition (ZEVI) which was announced in February, funded by the UK Government and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. 

As part of ZEVI, the Department for Transport allocated over £80m to 10 flagship projects supported by 52 organisations from across the UK to deliver real world demonstration R&D projects in clean maritime solutions. Projects will take place in multiple locations from the Orkney Isles to the South West of England.

ZEVI is part of the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE), focused on clean maritime technologies that can be scaled rapidly to decarbonise the UK’s domestic maritime sector. In March 2022, the department allocated £206m to UK SHORE, a new division within the Department for Transport focused on decarbonising the maritime sector. 

UK SHORE is delivering a suite of interventions throughout 2022-2025 aimed at accelerating the design, manufacture and operation of UK-made clean maritime technologies and unlocking an industry-led transition to net zero.

Cllr Kimberly Barrett, cabinet member for climate change and greening the city at Portsmouth City Council referred to the Sea Change project as ‘game changing.’