The environmental organisation Transport & Environment (T&E) has found the port of Rotterdam to be the most polluting port in Europe, producing almost 14 million tonnes of CO2 each year. 

The environmental impact of ports and the shipping industry

The T&E study assessed carbon emissions from ships departing and entering ports, as well as emissions produced by other industrial activities at ports, such as loading, unloading, and refuelling. 

Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany dominate the top 10. T&E points out that the shipping industry is a “fast-growing emitter” and has called on the EU to turn its attention to the issue and make an effort to reduce its climate impact. 

“The shipping industry is making a killing right now. Ports are at the heart of this and their climate impact is enormous,” says Jacob Armstrong, sustainable shipping officer at T&E. “Yet, instead of getting behind proposals to clean up shipping, like comprehensive port electrification and mandates for green fuels, ports simply aren’t doing enough to clean up the sector.”

Port of Rotterdam one of Europe’s biggest polluters

As the continent’s largest seaport, Rotterdam was by far found to be the most polluting port in Europe, producing 13,7 million tonnes of CO2 every year – more than double the average emissions of a coal-fired power plant. According to T&C, this makes it one of Europe’s biggest industrial polluters, putting it in joint fifth place with the Weisweiler coal power plant in Germany.  

Rotterdam may have claimed the top spot, but it isn’t the only Dutch city to feature in the top 10; Amsterdam comes in 10th place, producing 2,1 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. 

When it comes to emissions produced solely by loading, unloading, and refuelling at port, Rotterdam once again takes the top spot, producing 640.000 tonnes of CO2, with Amsterdam coming in fourth place (163.000 tonnes) and the port of Vlissingen in Zeeland in fifth place, producing 158.000 tonnes a year.

T&C points out that a switch to “shore-side electrification” is particularly relevant in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where oil tankers are said to account for the largest proportion of emissions at port. 

Europe’s 10 most polluting ports

According to T&E’s study, the top 10 most polluting ports in Europe are:

  1. Rotterdam
  2. Antwerp
  3. Hamburg
  4. Algeciras
  5. Barcelona
  6. Pairaias
  7. Valencia
  8. Bremerhaven
  9. Marseille
  10. Amsterdam

For more information about the study, visit the T&C website.

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