Port of Tallinn is one of the largest cargo- and passenger port complexes in the Baltic Sea region, playing a vital role in the Estonian transport system and economy. On average, Port of Tallinn serves around 10 million passengers and 20 million tons of goods every year. The company has set ambitious targets to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, which is accompanied by real, tangible steps.
Based on the environmental impact assessments of the Port of Tallinn, the company has set a goal to achieve climate neutrality in all its port operations by 2050. In view of the ambitious climate neutrality target, Port of Tallinn has decided to manage the entire company and all projects according to sustainable principles. For the port, environmental issues are not isolated projects but part of a strategic approach and management system, and the entire management team is responsible for the implementation of the sustainable development strategy.
Each unit and employee of the Port of Tallinn must operate in accordance with the set sustainable development strategy, which includes addressing environmental impacts. In addition to climate-neutrality, the aim is to achieve zero emissions from ships at berth, use 90% renewable energy and recycle 70% of ship waste, thus contributing to a cleaner environment and the preservation of the Baltic Sea.
In order to reduce environmental impacts, the company is increasingly adding environmental expertise to its business and development activities. To this end, Port of Tallinn continuously monitors the distribution of greenhouse gas emissions within their operations and carries out ambient air quality measurements in cooperation with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre.
Responsibility in protecting the environment is not just a promise but includes concrete steps in rethinking the way we do business
In line with the priorities set out in the strategy, the Port of Tallinn is working on several fronts at once. Considering that emissions from ships and tankers at berth account for the majority of the environmental footprint, the Port of Tallinn is already implementing solutions to reduce emissions. For example, shore power charging equipment has been installed on the piers of the Old City Harbour, enabling ships at berth in the port to use shoreside electrical power to reduce exhaust emissions, noise pollution and fuel consumption.
The Old City Harbour is one of the busiest passenger harbours in Europe, and the use of onshore power is a key factor in reducing the environmental impact of shipping on urban space. For example, a Tallink passenger ship using green shore power for at least 7 hours per day for electricity consumption will reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 120 tons per month. The shutdown of ships’ engines will also result in improved air quality, as less exhaust gases and particulate matter will be emitted into the air around the port.
Ships arriving at and departing from the Old City Harbour on the Tallinn-Helsinki route are served by state-of-the-art automated mooring equipment. The vacuum automooring equipment allows ships to save time on mooring and therefore to travel slower and with lower fuel consumption. This solution can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships by up to 12 000 tons per year, which is comparable to 10 000 diesel cars.
Green solutions are also prioritised in the planning and construction of new facilities. A good example is the new cruise terminal at the Old City Harbour, the technical design of which is based on a study carried out beforehand to determine which energy-saving and ecologically sustainable solutions are suitable for the construction of the building in the Nordic climate. The building’s energy needs are covered by 725 solar panels, which cover 35% of the energy demand in the cold season and up to 100% in summer. The terminal building is heated and cooled by two heat pumps connected to an innovative seawater heat exchanger.
The Port of Tallinn operates on the premise that the Baltic Sea is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world
In addition to actions that improve air quality and the living environment, such as the use of shoreside electricity power and the switch to automated mooring equipment, Port of Tallinn has invested in technical innovations that take into account the specificities of the Baltic Sea. With one of the world’s largest river basins, the Baltic Sea is ecologically unique and highly sensitive to environmental impacts caused by human activities.
In terms of water quality, the port has introduced new reception facilities for ship waste and waste recycling. The port provides shore-connected reception facilities for unlimited quantities of wastewater from passenger vessels, as well as receiving oil-blended waste from ships and processing it into new products. In doing so, the Port of Tallinn complies with the requirements of European Union directive on the reception and handling of waste from ships, the main goal of which is to prevent marine pollution by reducing the amount of ship’s waste dumped at sea.
The Port of Tallinn has also fortified its environmental measures. For example, hull cleaning services in the water area of the port can only be provided on the condition that the cleaning waste is collected to prevent it from entering the marine environment. The collection of hull cleaning waste is necessary because the discharge of all kinds of waste into the water, as well as algae, potential invasive species, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients, contributes to the eutrophication of the already sensitive Baltic Sea environment.
The company is also working to make its ships climate neutral. Together with its subsidiary TS Laevad, the first steps have been taken to switch to ships using clean energy. TS Laevad is gradually moving towards zero emission and the phase-out of fossil fuels. For example, on the Virtsu-Kuivastu route, the ferry Tõll, which has been converted into Estonia’s first hybrid cruise ship, is already serving passengers. The company will continue to convert its fleet to alternative fuels and does not rule out hydrogen in the future. Altogether, making ships climate neutral could reduce emissions by 20 563 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Sustainability-orientated investments also contribute to the environmental development of other sectors
In addition to its own activities, the Port of Tallinn plays a key role in the development of other important sectors. For example, the Port of Tallinn has decided to invest up to EUR 53 million in the Paldiski South Harbour to build a new 310-metre quay with a 10-ha backland area. Due to the favourable location of the Paldiski South Harbour, the construction of the new quay will enable the Port of Tallinn to become an important partner in the construction and subsequent maintenance of offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea. The new quay will ensure the capacity of the port to accommodate high draft special purpose vessels for the construction of offshore wind farms and the transport of wind turbine components. A large back area will allow for a variety of preparatory activities for the manufacture and storage of generators and wind turbines before loading onto ships.
The Port of Tallinn has also decided to implement environmentally differentiated port fees, which will encourage more environmentally friendly ships. Ships participating in the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) may apply for up to 8 % discount on tonnage fees in the harbours of the Port of Tallinn. The pricing system is aimed at encouraging shipping companies to adopt environmentally friendlier technologies and thus also contribute to the health of Baltic Sea ecosystem.
Port of Tallinn is a founding member of the Estonian Association for Environmental Management, a member of the European prestigious inter-port environmental protection organisation Ecoports, and a supporting member of the world ports climate initiative C40 World Ports Climate Declaration. In addition, the Port of Tallinn contributes to social campaigns such as Let’s Do It, World Cleanup Day, Green Capital, etc. The company also participates in international and national organisations such as BPO, ESPO, Cruise Europe, Cruise Baltic, Green Port, Green Cruise, EKJA and VEF, which also have green issues and sustainable development at the core of their activities.