photo of a cargo ship at a port

Working collaboratively with UK ports to achieve a sustainable future for the maritime sector

Ben Turner Senior Consultant
Ben Turner

Throughout his career, Ben has provided advice to UK Central Government – as well as numerous Regional/Local Government Authorities. He has also contributed to the preparation of technical guidance as well as air quality tools used domestically and internationally, on behalf of Defra.

Ben has experience in leading air quality assessments in support of significant projects across the UK, including Heathrow’s third runway, offshore windfarms and Clean Air Zone feasibility studies. He is also experienced in providing assessments in relation to environmental permits.

More recently, Ben has led on multiple Port Air Quality strategies, providing recommendations of mitigation based on extensive quantification of port emissions and consultation.


With the environment at the forefront of our minds, further scrutiny is being applied to sectors and industries previously overlooked, or considered a lesser priority relative to other sources. But with due intervention, the relative contributions of these sources has increased. One of those industries under the ever-growing spotlight is shipping and the maritime sector.

In recent years shipping has gained notoriety in the environmental world, with allegations of ‘emission cheat devices’ being discovered on vessels, mirroring events which unfolded several years ago on the streets of the UK, Europe and America, that many of us are all too familiar with, termed ‘Dieselgate’.

However, it’s not all bad: the international shipping community has done some rigorous work over the years to enforce emission control areas in heavily trafficked shipping lanes, and stricter emission limits for vessels. The UK Government has bolstered this with the 2019 delivery of the Clean Maritime Plan 2050, which sets out a sustainable vision and ambition for the future of the British maritime sector.

Following the publication of Defra’s Clean Air Strategy in 2019, the UK Government outlined a number of commitments towards emission reductions from domestic shipping and port activities. In response to this, major UK ports were asked to develop a Port Air Quality Strategy (PAQS) to demonstrate the steps they are taking to reduce emissions. The goals of the strategy are twofold:

  • To establish a level of understanding of air quality at ports
  • To reflect actions the port is taking to address emissions under their control

The long-term goal is to encourage UK ports to understand the air quality impact of their activities and seek opportunities to mitigate these.

SLR has been providing support to ports and terminals across the UK, consulting on the preparation of best-practice action plans which fulfil Government requirements. One area in particular which our team has focused on is the River Thames, whereby individual terminals within the Port of London Authority’s jurisdiction were asked to contribute to the overarching Thames strategy.

To support these River Thames terminals, SLR’s Air Quality team sought to provide robust evidence for the action plan. To achieve this, extensive quantification of site emissions was undertaken based on a range of activities, such as shipping, rail, machinery, and vehicles.

After being spatially distributed via mapping, emissions were forecast to account for improvements in technology and subsequent emission reductions, as well as changes to business operations in the coming years – albeit challenging given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon completion, SLR’s team followed up with a series of workshops with the relevant stakeholders, allowing discussion of the potential measures in relation to costs, safety, economic viability, impact, effort, and timescales.

A bespoke monitoring and reporting framework was designed for each circumstance, so operators could evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the PAQS. These strategies are then continually updated in line with port operations.

These ongoing updates allow for a fruitful and collaborative relationship between SLR and the ports we support across the UK – meaning SLR can play a proactive role in helping to secure a cleaner, more sustainable future for the maritime industry.

At this stage, all major ports have likely prepared a PAQS. However, if you have a live or future requirement – for air quality or other environmental services – please get in touch with our team. SLR’s extensive experience within the maritime sector, particularly around the quantification of emissions, helps our clients to achieve sustained growth and resilient day-to-day business operations, working with the challenges and opportunities brought about by environmental constraints.