Building the ports and harbours of the future

Ramsay Muirhead, Director of Port Infrastructure and Planning

Transport remains the UK’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and, with ambitious government targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, a drive to future proof our ferry fleet and harbour assets is at the forefront of planning.

As the owner of 26 harbours across Scotland, implementing measures to reduce our carbon output is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Many of our harbours are in some of the most remote parts of the country, which can impact accessibility and make the distribution of resources challenging.

The rural setting of many harbours means we have to dig a bit deeper in terms of the nature and implementation of sustainable solutions, taking into account local resources, as well as environmental impact. A prime example of this is Brodick Ferry Terminal on the Isle of Arran, where we installed a biomass boiler as the primary means of generating heat. The biomass system worked well to reduce the carbon footprint at Brodick because a wood chipping facility already existed on the island.

In every port infrastructure project, we also consider the natural environment, which is highly variable, but can present opportunities. At some sites, such as Portavadie on Loch Fyne, we can take advantage of the natural resources. For example, we recently installed reed beds, a low-cost, zero energy input, wastewater treatment system, which uses wetland plants to cleanse effluent and safely discharge it back into the receiving environment. In other areas, a location’s composition and surroundings can be a hindrance. At Tarbert Ferry Terminal on the Isle of Harris, we were unable to install solar panels because of its position so had to investigate other measures, such as an air source heating system.

Our team of talented engineers, surveyors and managers are committed to designing and building greener, more sustainable ferry infrastructure in the months and years ahead. We continue to investigate solutions which can be implemented across our network so it can continue to facilitate lifeline services for years to come.