Report claims Immingham is one of the UK's most polluted ports

Immingham's port is one of the most polluted in the country due to the high level of shipping in dock, according to a report.

The Humber port came second in a table of the UK ports where the level of air quality was found to be harmful. The report by Transport and Environment UK, which monitors pollution emissions throughout Europe, said the impact is felt by residents living around UK ports.

It singled out the emissions from vessels which are of particular concern in tackling climate change and said ships were far more polluting than cars. It called for "pollution levies" which could mean shipping firms paying more to dock at British ports.


Associated British Ports (ABP) say the figures used in the report are "dubious" and highlighted the gradual shift towards less polluting ships, some of which are using Immingham and Grimsby docks to bring in vital and commercial supplies to our island nation.

Milford Haven, in south west Wales, topped the table with Immingham second, according to the environmental campaigning organisation's report. It said Immingham was near the top for emissions of harmful sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and that has an impact on the health of residents living near the ports..

The campaigners urged Government and big companies to do more to reduce emissions. They claim even when ships are in berth they are using large amounts of fossil fuels.

The report said: "As well as producing significant greenhouse gas emissions, this practice also discharges very large amounts of harmful air pollutant emissions directly into the UK’s port towns, in many cases 24 hours a day.

"Ships also routinely discharge pollutant-laden wash water from exhaust gas cleaning systems (“scrubbers”) straight into the sea and only a small number of UK ports prohibit this.

"The health impacts for dock workers, port town populations and people living further afield of breathing shipping fumes include respiratory and cardiovascular disease. The health costs of shipping’s contribution to PM2.5 exposure alone in the UK are estimated at £1.5bn/year."

The report stated: "T&E UK are calling on the Government to implement long-overdue policy and regulations to finally get to grips with the combined and 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.

"Essential measures 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 Immingham, chemical and oil tankers produced the majority of SOx emissions (66%), followed by roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) cargo vessels (18%). In Southampton, cruise ships were the most polluting vessel type, where just 46 cruise ships contributed almost 30% of Southampton’s SOx emissions (and more than the 200 containerships also calling there).

Immingham had the highest number of "unique vessels" in port at 938 in 2022. The number of hours those vessels were in port was nearly 110,000.

A spokesperson for Associated British Ports said: "Associated British Ports is working incredibly hard to reduce its emissions - having reduced CO2 emissions by 34% since 2015 - and support the decarbonisation of our customers, tenants and partners. We closely monitor air quality levels and ensure that they are well within Local Authorities' limits and national objectives.

"But we're determined to do more. We're investing in new electric equipment, are the first port operator to install large scale shore power and have onsite green energy generation in 18 of our ports. Our Ready for Tomorrow strategy commits us to net zero by 2040, supported by £2bn of identified investment.

"The Port of Immingham is at the forefront of this positive change. Technology is making great strides in the shipping sector, with more vessels utilising developments to help reduce their emissions. We are seeing an increased number of container and cargo vessels using LNG fuel, electric propulsion systems, and even smart vacuum technology.

"We have invested millions in five new pilot vessels as part of our pilot boat replacement programme, which are more energy efficient. We have a sector leading air quality action plan, including investment in introducing a large and growing fleet of electrified vehicles and equipment including cranage. We trialled the first hydrogen fuelled terminal tractor in the UK in our container terminal.

"ABP doesn’t recognise the numbers produced by Transport and Environment UK in their theoretical modelling and have concerns about the methodology they have employed and 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 ignore the vital role ports play in a much bigger sustainability change, such as enabling offshore green energy development."