The Port of London Authority (PLA) has achieved a major decarbonisation milestone, having halved its carbon emissions last year.

The PLA, which oversees safe operations in the UK’s busiest port, has committed to achieving Net Zero by 2040. Last year’s performance at the port delivered a 50% cut in carbon emissions three years ahead of the original 2025 target.

The introduction of sustainable biofuel in place of diesel in its fleet of vessels as an interim measure was the key initial step in improving performance. 

The PLA operates more than 20 vessels, including harbour service launches, driftwood collectors, hydrographic survey vessels, and a large mooring maintenance craft.

The original PLA target was a 50% reduction in the 2,054 tonnes of carbon emitted across its entire operations in its 2014 baseline year. Before the switch to biofuel, vessel fuel consumption was responsible for more than 75% of the authority’s total carbon emissions.

“Overseeing safe operations in the UK’s biggest port and busiest inland waterway involves a large number of our team working out on the river,” said PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer. “This has traditionally been carbon intensive, with vessels using diesel taking pilots to large ships, patrolling the river, recovering driftwood and maintaining aids to navigation. 

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“We’re proud to have made this initial step using sustainable biofuels to reduce carbon emissions. This interim measure is bringing emissions down, while we explore the long-term solution, using alternative fuels.”

The PLA has invested more than £120,000 in new steel fuel tanks to store biofuel at three of its bases along the river. The most recent installation, Barrier Gardens Pier, was completed just before Christmas 2022, fully establishing biofuel as part of ‘business as usual’ for the PLA. 

The tank installation at Barrier Gardens Pier, the PLA’s principal vessel base in the capital, was part of a wider programme of improvements, including a pier extension that enabled the largest vessel in the fleet, London Titan, to moor there. 

The pier was also fitted with shore power as part of the development work, so that the vessel can operate essential electrical systems when moored without using its engines to generate power.