Mobile services of Zero Emission Berth power provision in the tidal Thames

The innovation exchange is seeking innovative approaches to provide the Tidal Thames with a solution to provide smart flexible zero emission power provision, as a service available 24/7 at the waterside, from berths throughout the Port of London. The winning business(es) in this competition will be given an opportunity to present their solutions to the Port of London Authority, with the potential of a commercial opportunity to deliver their solution.


Challenge opens


Challenge closes




The Innovation Exchange is delivered by KTN, which is supporting major ports to identify innovative solutions to the challenge of decarbonising ports & harbours. This challenge is brought forward by the Innovation Network for Decarbonising Ports and Harbours (DPHIN) on behalf of the Port of London Authority (PLA) – for further details on the work of this Network and how you may connect to it please see - 


The UK has a legally binding commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050 and the Port of London Authority has recently committed itself to meeting the same target by 2040.  More widely, the PLA has been driving environmental change on the River Thames through the adoption of new technology, provision of incentives and strategic planning.  The next phase of the Tidal Thames Air Quality Strategy incorporates the implementation of actions to reduce emissions and facilitate change, principally the infrastructure to energise cleaner ships so that the ship owners / operators can invest in new ship technology and arrive at the Port of London with confidence. Details on the PLA’s approach on air quality and green tariff delivery can be found at -   .  This includes a technology roadmap for decarbonising inland shipping. 

The Challenge

Local air quality can be impacted through the running of auxiliary engines and generators in vessels whilst at berth, most commonly cruise vessels but also roll on roll off and container vessels.  These vessel can be berthed for relatively long periods of time.  Figure 1 shows nitrogen dioxide emissions per vessel type both whilst sailing and at berth in 2016. 

Figure 1 - NOx emissions by ship type in 2016 (Source: Port of London Emissions Inventory 2016, published 2018)

There were over 10,000 ship calls to London in 2016 (the baseline year for the Emissions Inventory underpinning the Air Quality Study) when 50.4 million tonnes of cargo were handled within the Port of London, with the range of vessel types shown in Figure 2.  Cargo volumes have grown subsequently, reaching 54.03 million tonnes in 2019, albeit falling back in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Figure 2 – Types of vessel entering the Port of London in 2016

The wider transition from marine diesel to a range of zero emission fuels will mean that the current approach to bunker service will change.  Similarly, the security of supply of these new fuels is restricting operators, particularly inland operations with choices to be made for their own emission reduction pathways.  The pandemic is having a profound effect on vessel operators, particularly in the capital, but there is an acknowledgement that this doesn’t detract from the need to transition.  As such, the PLA is keen to facilitate the Thames’ green recovery to avoid stranded assets and misdirected investments.

The provision of shore power electricity is costly and restricted by space alongside the River Thames and grid availability.  Furthermore some berths are located in the middle of the river which further limits the technology and solutions available.  Standardisation of infrastructure has been evolving to provide full electric high-power charging. 

This call is seeking innovative approaches to provide the Tidal Thames with a solution to provide smart flexible zero emission power provision, as a service available 24/7 at the waterside, for berths throughout the Port of London, adjacent to quaysides and in the river.  The initial focus is on serving the berths owned by the Port of London Authority to serve the cruise ship market who are early adopters of electrical ship to shore solutions, for details on prioritised locations see -  Some bulk carriers and cargo ships have similarly taken on provision for shore power connections but this is a more nascent market initially. For an indication on the timings of cruise ship berthing please refer to the PLA cruise ship diary page - , where you will find links to future planned arrivals and departures for all vessel types. This is for information only and has been subjected to rapid and variable change during the global COVID pandemic.  The expectation however is that by the time this solution is deployed the level of demand will have returned to pre-pandemic levels. There is an expectation that as vessel propulsion and usage technology transitions to low / zero emission across a wider range of vessels in the coming decades that the berthing provision will be extended.

The solution for cruise ships is required for implementation by end of 2024 or sooner, based on an economically viable service that is integrated to the existing Thames infrastructure, including appropriate licencing and approvals for use.  It should be based on financial returns that are realistic and competitive for a ship owner/ships agent/operator to reasonably accept.  The challenge sponsor recognises this is a long-term investment but they do expect to recover the cost of their investment. 

Proposals are welcome for:

  • Existing market-ready technologies
  • Established solutions from other sectors of industry which can be adapted for this application.  
  • Development proposals based on existing competences.  
  • Universities, RTO’s and Catapults with above TRL 5 solutions and potential routes to market.

Potential solutions may come from a host of sectors not limited to;

  • Maritime
  • Nuclear
  • Rail
  • Road haulage and niche vehicles development
  • Offshore wind, tidal and wave energy
  • Energy systems providers - Networks and Grid
  • Construction and infrastructure - plant manufacturers
  • Heavy engineering

Where solutions cannot be met through a turnkey approach the PLA will be interested in hearing from ready formed consortiums or parties who are proposing to compliment their offering through a consortium, which KTN can assist in forming through its networks or other applicants to this call.  Applicants should indicate and gaps in their proposal and advise how they propose to meet them.

Solutions focusing on energy/electricity generation in isolation without transfer will not be considered as part of this challenge, although solutions that allow ship-to-shore or ship to ship transfer would be considered, where the energy is derived from non-fossil fuel derived energy.

This challenge is sponsored by the Port of London Authority.  Other organisations which are part of the DPHIN have a vested interest in engaging with potential solution providers who can meet their requirements and will be interested in the results of this call. 

These organisations are volunteers from the DPHIN and are a representative sample from over 50 major ports in the UK all of whom need to reach NetZero by 2050

Rewards and benefits

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the PLA. The package may also include:

  • Support from KTN and members of the DPHIN – Introductions to relevant Catapults or potential collaborations and any applicable funding streams.
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot.
  • Technical support from Port Operators with support from their business teams as required.
  • A place in KTN or Catapult events
  • A potential business collaboration

The PLA will provide a successful applicant with up to 100% of the funding required to develop and deliver the solution, as per an agreement to be arranged.  

The PLA will grant a licence to operate on the Tidal Thames on receipt of all other regulatory approvals.  

The PLA will advise and assist the applicant in accessing the market on the Tidal Estuary.  

There is also a possibility – to be agreed - of utilising the PLA’s promotional reach and publicity in UK Maritime and across worldwide ports to promote the solution.

Solution Requirements

Functional Requirements 

  • It is desired the solution has considered different load needs and duration of attendance in port – applicants should indicate what range and duration they could accommodate.
  • The solution would be flexible for a range of visiting ships with load needs as indicated below:
    1. Bulk / cargo / container / Ro-Ro (small) = 0.3 – 3 MVa
    2. Container (over 100m) = 3 – 6 MVa
    3. Tankers = 6 – 11 MVa
    4. Cruise Ships = 10 – 20 MVa

Vessels are expected to be moored in port for variable durations and be drawing power whilst moored for durations in bands of:

          1. Up to 8 hours if dropping off guests on short turn arounds
          2. Up to 72 Hours, if being serviced
        • Shore power required by international vessels will have standardised voltages of 6.6kv HV and/or 11kv HV (standard IEC/IEEE 80005-1).  A large proportion of ships are designed to 60Hz although some operate at 50Hz.
        • The Solution is required to deliver the energy and connect up efficiently and easily to the berthed ship. They should aim to be connected and disconnect quickly and efficiently to promote efficient port operations.
        • It is the expectation that initially demand will be for electrical power from a local grid, noting though that in some locations the grid is not sufficiently robust or sufficiently energised to meet expected demand and may require a more flexible approach.  As the market for non fossil fuel re-fuelling develops then this might be extended to included other energy sources such as wind / PV derived electricity, biofuels, synthetic fuels, hydrogen or ammonia. 
        • Solution must be manageable by 2-4 people or ideally be fully automated.
        • The system should be simple to change or adapt as demands develop.
        • Applicants must consider the port operation and the flow of water and tidal range of the Thames Technical Characteristics
        • Must be mobile and be able to be stationed at a variety of locations within the Tidal Thames.
        • Energy systems must consider a range of power from 0.3 MVa to 20MVa, but the solution may be designed to operate in a specific sub range and meet higher demands through a modularised or ancillary approach.
        • The applicant should advise on the source of the power, means of connection and whether onboard transformers are required to step up or down the voltage.

        Operating Conditions

        • The equipment and ships in port arrive and need servicing in all weathers, in all temperatures and all times of day. 
        • The solution must be able to operate in typical British Weather, with a temperature range of -20 - + 40 DegC, with high wind speeds and variable precipitation levels from drizzle to torrential rain.  
        • The Port is in an estuarine location and is subject to tidal flows as well as fluvial processes. The solution must be able to operate under a full range of tidal depth and flow rates.  The river is susceptible to high levels of suspended particles and siltation, with floating naturally occurring debris and flotsam. For further descriptions of inland water state please refer to guidance by the MCA -
        • The solution should comply with recognised protocols or international standards, which should be stated in the submission, e.g. those by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency or ISO80005.
        • International Onshore Power Solution Standards can be found at for reference.
        • Operating space at ports and harbours is often constrained and available at a premium so the solution should be agile and require minimal space to operate. 
        • Operational space in the water is typically shared with other vessels and quayside space is shared with vehicles and equipment such as mobile gantry cranes, therefore any proposed solution should consider movement pathways and service heights.

        Deployment Timescale

        1. Launch of the Competition: 5 March 2021
        2. Deadline for applications: noon 30 April 2021
        3. Selection and notification of finalists: 17 May 2021
        4. A presentation day (Video Conference) 3 June 2021 – subject to confirmation and numbers selected.
        5.  Solutions should be prepared for:
          1. Feasibility assessments, where needed, to be completed within 2 months of competition win
          2. Fully deployable for prototype testing at site within 18 months of feasibility completion or selection win.

        Cost requirement and market opportunity

        A commercialisation plan is desired for the PLA and port operators to get a cost model for future deployment.

        The applicant should demonstrate what the minimal viable product would entail to meet the initial demand profiles.

        The opportunity is for the company to present to the PLA and potentially a panel of the port and vessel operators, to progress to position the port operators to establish a budget to develop the products if selected.

        Eligibility and assessment criteria

        Entrants to this competition must be:

        • Established businesses, startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
        • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base to commercialise the solution

        Applications will be assessed on:

        • Relevance to the topic
        • Innovative nature of the subject
        • Coherence of the proposed business model
        • Feasibility/ economic viability
        • Development potential
        • Maturity of project/solution
        • Ability to launch project quickly/Ease of implementation
        • Price/quality ratio
        • Suitability for the UK Market 

        IP and Potential Commercial Route

        Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and PLA.

        Any commercial deployment of transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and PLA.

        Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and PLA.

        KTN do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial venture through the Innovation Exchange programme

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