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Deep Decarbonisation Pathways for Transport and Logistics related to the Port of Rotterdam


In 2015, 195 nations reached the Paris Agreement at COP 21 aiming to combat climate change. This agreement changed the global political landscape and calls for its members to develop plans “to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible […] and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter” (UNFCCC 2015, Art.4.1). Full GHG neutrality of the parties’ economies “in the second half of this century” is the aim. The EU has taken action in response to the agreement and is currently in the process of refining its long-term strategy. This will involve and require fundamental changes to European energy supply and demand in order to achieve the EU targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. Consequently, there will be significant repercussions on both the European economy and individual companies, including the organisation of transportation and, particularly, its energy supply, as well as the volume of fossil energies transported. Global, European and Dutch climate policies will have a significant effect on the way businesses operate at the Port of Rotterdam, given its high exposure to the use, handling and conversion of fossil fuels. With annual CO2 emissions of well over 30 million tonnes in the port area and around 24 million tonnes from transport to and from Rotterdam, the port is one of the major European GHG emissions hotspots. As a result, the Port of Rotterdam has a particular responsibility to actively contribute to European GHG emissions reduction efforts.


The Rotterdam Port Authority commissioned the Wuppertal Institute to investigate potential deep decarbonisation pathways for its transport business and sector for the period until 2050.
The key issues to be analysed in the study are:
• How can freight transport activity linked to the Port of Rotterdam be decarbonised?
• How will a decarbonised world in 2050 affect transport and logistics at the Port?
• How can the Port of Rotterdam support the decarbonisation of (maritime) transport?
• How can the Port adapt its business model to a climate-friendly future?
With annual CO2 emissions of well over 30 million tonnes, the Port of Rotterdam has a large interest in learning about ways to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for years. If significant emissions abatement was achieved, the Port would make an important contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the current EU target of reducing GHG emissions by 80-95% by 2050.


From the scenarios on “(Deep) decarbonisation effects on transport” it can be concluded that deep decarbonisation will significantly affect transport volumes in both maritime and hinterland transport. Imports will be strongly affected when the bulk used in the power plants and refineries in Rotterdam, as well as in its hinterland, are significantly reduced or phased out. This will result in a massive decline in the transportation of oil and oil products as well as of coal, which will only partly be compensated for by the additional transportation of biofuels or alternative synthetic energy carriers. In contrast, exports via maritime transport, as well as general cargo imports (both largely containerised), are expected to increase. Overall, the growth of container transport has the potential to compensate for the decline in bulk freight volume. In the hinterland, due to the strong correlation between freight and mode, combined with active measures to switch containers from road to ships and rail, container volumes on ships are predicted to increase by 112% (from 31 Mt to 65 Mt) and on trains by 110%. This would require terminal capacity extensions in both the Port of Rotterdam and along the Rhine of an estimated 50% to 100% (the latter with modal shift).
Not only will deep decarbonisation affect transport volume, but the decarbonisation targets will also require transport modes to become more efficient, less polluting and – ultimately – fossil-free. Therefore, in addition to operational and technical efficiency measures, the “(Deep) decarbonisation of transport” scenarios considered four alternative energy carriers (synthetic methanol, hydrogen, synthetic methane and renewable electricity), all of which could enable complete greenhouse gas emissions abatement. These were then grouped into two scenarios for 2050: a power-to-liquids (P2L) scenario and a mixed power-to-liquids and power-to-gas (P2L/P2G) scenario. It was further assumed that biofuels and/or liquefied natural gas (LNG) may play an important role as a bridge but will be phased out by 2050 due to lack of sustainable availability and/or limited emissions reduction potential. It is assumed that electricity will become cost-competitive between 2020 and 2030 for short sea shipping and that the same will be true for hydrogen for medium ship ranges over 1 500 km, covering respectively around 9 % and 4 % of shipping volumes by 2050. Synthetic fuels will dominate long distance maritime shipping because of the strong cost decreases over coming decades, as assumed by several studies.

Overall our scenarios for 2050 show:
A) Decarbonisation will significantly change the amount and structure of freight transported, with a clear trend away from bulk and towards containerised transport, which will have significant structural effects on the port operation and particularly on hinterland transport.
B) There are several technological routes for converting transport systems to net zero carbon. However, all of these imply major efficiency gains through operational and technical measures and a switch to non-fossil fuels. For the latter, different routes do exist but there is still strong uncertainty about which option will be the best or will dominate for most transport segments. For all the scenarios, significant amounts of renewable electricity (between 56 and 67 TWh) will be needed, both as energy carriers and (in particular) as input for the generation of hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthetic liquid or gaseous fuels.

In summary the scenario results show: (a) that decarbonisation will significantly change the amount and structure of freight transported; (b) that there are several technological routes to convert transport systems towards net zero carbon; and (c) that a clear trade-off between renewable energy demand and infrastructural challenges exists. Furthermore, all the scenarios depend on future technological and economic developments that will be strongly driven by the future of passenger transport.
The recommendations aim to combine the identification of early potential for action with long-term strategies to pro-actively adapt business and investment strategies to the forecast impacts of climate mitigation on port-related transport. Recommendations are grouped into four fields of action: 1) Deal with future potential changes in transport volume and structure due to de-carbonisation, 2) Support and enable efficiency and fuel switch for maritime transport 3) Support and enable efficiency, fuel shift and modal shift for hinterland transport, 4) Pursue efficiency and electrification of handling operations.
For each field, we outline possible courses of action for the three main groups of actors: the Port of Rotterdam (and other ports), business partners (mainly in the shipping and logistics industries), and the Dutch and other governments.

A number of concrete early no regret actions for the Port of Rotterdam have been identified.
A) First of all, the IMO, a number of national governments and stakeholders from the shipping industry and the Rotterdam Port Authority are already active and ambi-tious for GHG mitigation in maritime shipping. The port should, therefore, extend its existing activities and lobby intensively for more ambitious targets and related measures to increase energy efficiency and switch fuel supply to non-fossil energy carriers. The port itself is already active and should intensify its activities to improve operational practices, as well as go through with monitoring and verification to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions from maritime shipping.
B) Closely linked are further actions to fully decarbonise handling facilities at the port; e.g. by electrifying all stationary and mobile motors, increasing uptake rates for land-based electricity supply for ships at berth and supplying heating and cooling energies from waste energy from industrial installations or with green electricity. This could be linked to own renewable energy generation at the port.
C) With regards to the future fuel supply of maritime transport, liquefied natural gas (LNG) seems to be a promising bridge solution as it offers immediate (but limited) GHG emissions reductions and strong pollution reductions, and could easily be converted to renewables-based synthetic methane as soon as that technology is available. The port might, therefore, consider strengthening its existing activities to support the uptake of LNG by large shares of ships. Furthermore, for short distances, battery electric and hydrogen fuelled ships may soon be available options. Developing pilot projects with owners of e.g. tug boats, ferries and inland ships to offer electricity or hydrogen could be developed as no regret options.
D) Our scenarios also show that structural changes in hinterland transport will be of strategic relevance to the Port of Rotterdam. To tackle the resulting infrastructure challenges (i.e. to enable much higher container volumes to be transported on inland ships instead of by truck), an integrated vision and action plan for the future decarbonised transport in the Rotterdam hinterland seems to be crucial. Such a plan would need to be developed in cooperation with national and regional governments.
E) Finally, most of the challenges of deep decarbonisation will not affect the port itself, but rather its "business partners" i.e. the logistics and transport companies and service providers operating at the port. Therefore, we recommend establishing a continuous "Rotterdam decarbonisation of transport dialogue" with all stakeholders to improve early awareness of the evolving decarbonisation challenges for the Port Authority and for the companies active at the port. Such a dialogue could be based on a decarbonisation concept founded on measures already implemented and/or planned by the port and could also become a nucleus for joint pilot projects or studies of relevant trends.


Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH Frau Dorothea Schostok Döppersberg 19, 42103 Wuppertal dorothea.schostok@wupperinst.org 0049 202 2492 227www.wupperinst.org


Port of Rotterdam Authority: Auftraggeber

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