Port-side activities such as loading and unloading freight, make-up a â€˜small proportionâ€™ of air pollution emissions around major shipping terminals, analysis released by the UKâ€™s major port operators claims.
The research, carried out by the consultancy Arup on behalf of the UK Major Ports Group and looking at analysis of three ports, suggests that air pollution around ports is largely dominated by road traffic emissions, predominantly from diesel cars and HGVs.
Emissions from vessels in the ports usually have a â€œrelatively low and very localised impactâ€ on air pollution, the report, which is due to be published next week, suggests.
Options for ports to improve their air quality performance include action to help reduce congestion in freight flows, operational improvement and engagement measures and shifting to greater electrification of port operations UKMPG claims.
The organisation held a roundtable event this week to discuss the findings of the report and to discuss ongoing work to address air pollution at ports.
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: â€œMajor ports can and will do more to continue their record of air quality improvement. But todayâ€™s report is clear that to make a major difference in urban areas around ports the improvement requires more than the port itself acting.
â€œAll stakeholders â€“ industry and government at different levels â€“ need to play their parts to deliver meaningful impact. We collectively need to find solutions that achieve the joint goals of better air quality and ensuring that the UK gets the best out of its global gateways.â€
In its Clean Air Plan, published this summer, government has pledged to tackle emissions from the shipping sector through a range of measures.
This includes consulting on new domestic regulations to reduce pollutant emissions from ships, and extending current Emissions Control Areas in UK waters.
Ministers have also declared that by May 2019, all major ports should produce their own Air Quality Strategies, setting out their plans to reduce emissions â€˜across the port estate, including ship and shore activitiesâ€™.
Mr Morris added: â€œThe UKâ€™s major ports take environmental stewardship very seriously and support high sustainability standards. This research is a contribution to making sure that the important task of improving air quality is well grounded in fact and expert views. Some of the debate about air quality has unfortunately not been well informed.
â€œAs an island nation which relies on the sea for 95% of its trade in goods, particularly as the UK approaches Brexit, its vital that the action thatâ€™s taken on air quality is both effective and maintains the UKâ€™s ability to trade with the world.â€