New T&E reports names UK’s most polluted ports

A new report published by NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) has identified the ports of Milford Haven, Southampton and Immingham as the top three ports for emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the UK.

Brussels-based T&E said in 2022, 472 ships in the Welsh port of Milford Haven produced ‘almost 100 times more poisonous SOx emissions than all of [the county of] Pembrokeshire’s 67,000 cars’.

The report also noted that more vessels in ports do not necessarily mean more pollution.

‘Vessel type and size play a big part in how polluted ports are,’ said T&E. ‘For example, Milford Haven – a deep water port able to accommodate the largest vessels – saw half the vessel numbers and vessel time in port of Immingham, but 50% higher SOx emissions. In Southampton, 46 cruise ships – just 6% of vessels calling there – produced more SOx than 200 containerships, and over 50% of NOx and PM2.5 emissions.’

T&E UK is calling on the Government to implement ‘long-overdue’ policy and regulations to tackle ‘increasingly urgent’ issues of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from UK shipping.

‘The government has an opportunity to so in its forthcoming refreshed Clean Maritime Plan which it must not waste,’ the NGO said.

Essential measures identified include mandating zero emission berths and creating a shore side electricity plan in UK ports; charging ships calling at UK ports for their emissions whilst moored, effectively creating maritime “clean air zones”; and designating all UK territorial waters as Emission Control Areas, while prohibiting all scrubber wash water discharge in UK territorial waters.

In a statement sent to, a spokesperson for the Port of Milford Haven said the Port is ‘one of only a handful of UK ports to prohibit ships that use open loop scrubbers to clean exhaust emissions from discharging their wash water within the Milford Haven Waterway.’

The British Ports Association said it was ‘disappointed’ by the new report, questioning its methodology.

‘It does not include any dispersion modelling or account for other factors, like atmospheric conditions, which all have a significant impact on how emissions affect local populations and are fundamental to any rigorous research into air quality,’ the BPA said.

In a statement sent to, a spokesperson for Associated British Ports (ABP) also raised questions over the report’s methodology.

‘ABP doesn’t recognise the numbers produced by Transport and Environment (T&E) UK in their theoretical modelling and has concerns about the methodology they have employed and the conclusions they have drawn. T&E UK didn’t choose to engage with ABP ahead of the report launch. We’re also disappointed that T&E UK ignores the vital role ports play in a much bigger sustainability change, such as enabling offshore green energy development.’

Image: Shutterstock

Rhys Berry