How Galveston Wharves is investing to go green

The Texas port is investing in LNG fuel bunkering, renewable energy, shore power, waste reduction and other eco-friendly initiatives to reduce its environmental impact

How Galveston Wharves is investing to go green
Galveston Wharves is aiming to be a leader in long-term environmental stewardship

From improving air quality to reducing waste, Galveston Wharves in Texas is identifying impactful ways to make long-term changes to improve the environment. Guided by Green Marine, a voluntary environmental programme for North America’s maritime industry, the port staff is researching, planning and implementing several environmental initiatives. 

The Green Marine environmental certification programme addresses key environmental issues through 12 performance indicators that include greenhouse gases, air emissions, spill prevention, waste management, environmental leadership, and community impacts. Some of these are applicable to shipping activities, others to landside operations.  

Galveston Wharves was certified in June, making it only the second Texas port participating in the programme. Joining Green Marine helps the port identify and implement best practices, manage its environmental initiatives, measure progress, and strive for continuous improvement. There are multiple programmes under way, including one focused on LNG fuel bunkering. 

As the international maritime industry transitions from heavy diesel fuel to clean-burning natural gas, the port could be the area’s first LNG fuel production and bunkering provider. Galveston Wharves views LNG fuelling as an important step in its commitment to environmental stewardship. With the number of LNG-fuelled vessels in the global fleet growing rapidly, having LNG fuelling services in the port is also an important step in the port’s commercial growth. LNG bunker demand may triple by 2024, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency.  

In August, Galveston Wharves contracted Stabilis Solutions to provide shore-to-ship LNG fuel services by the end of 2021, pending necessary permits and approvals. Stabilis is a leading provider of energy transition services, including LNG and hydrogen fuelling solutions. 

Galveston Wharves is also in negotiations with the developer of a floating LNG production vessel and associated operations on port-owned land on Pelican Island. The site is on Galveston Bay, one of the busiest marine corridors in the USA with access to the ports of Galveston, Houston and Texas City.  

Developing shore power facilities is another of the port’s priorities. When docked, ships are typically powered by diesel auxiliary engines, which produce air emissions. Shore power, which allows ships to plug in to the local electricity grid and turn off those engines, is a cleaner alternative. While it brings environmental benefits, shore power involves significant infrastructure investments and other costs.    

The port is partnering with Texas A&M University in Galveston on an extensive cost-benefit study that includes the port’s costs to install shore power infrastructure, estimated demand over the next five to 10 years and financing opportunities.  

In addition, the port is collaborating with Royal Caribbean International to determine the feasibility of providing shore power to its ships at the new cruise terminal being built at Pier 10, which will open in 2022. Built by Royal Caribbean and owned by the port, the new $125 million, 150,000-square-foot terminal has been designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) certification standards. It will be one of just a handful of LEED-certified buildings that meets a global set of health, efficiency and sustainability standards in Galveston.  

Renewable energy is also high on Galveston Wharves’ sustainability agenda. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, local governments can dramatically reduce their carbon footprints by purchasing electricity from clean, renewable sources. Hence, the port plans to fully transition to electricity providers who use sustainable power sources within five years. 

The port has already implemented waste reduction initiatives, including recycling programmes and buying sustainable paper products. It also has a policy to buy products made of recycled materials and consider vendor environmental practices in its selection process. 

Other potential programmes include adding alternative fuel vehicles to the port’s fleet and installing electric vehicle charging stations in the cruise parking lots. Some of these environmental programmes are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, whereas others will cost millions of dollars. Planning, research and seeking grants to help with funding are important first steps in the port’s long-term environmental commitment. 

As the fourth most popular cruise port in the USA and one of the busiest ports in Texas, the Port of Galveston welcomes hundreds of cruise, cargo and lay ships annually and generates $2.1 billion for the Texas economy. Now, the Galveston Wharves plans to lead the way in long-term environmental stewardship. 

Rodger Rees is port director and CEO at Galveston Wharves

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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By Rodger Rees
08 November 2021

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