Shore-to-Ship technology allowing cruise liners to plug into Malta’s electric grid when docked has been officially launched in the Grand Harbour.

Prime Minister Robert Abela inaugurated the years-long project on Wednesday morning, following an eight-month trial phase. The project will allow up to five cruise liners to be powered through the grid simultaneously.

The government says the project will mean 90% less pollution for the roughly 17,000 people who live around the Grand Harbour. 

But that 90% reduction will only come into full effect in 2030, once an EU law requiring all cruise liners to plug into an on-shore power supply (OPS) comes into force. 

As of 2024, just one-third of the ships that call at the Valletta Cruise Port are equipped with OPS technology, allowing them to draw power from the grid and switch off their engines while docked.  

Prime Minister Abela described the occasion as 'one of the most important days in Malta’s green transition'. Photo: Jonathan BorgPrime Minister Abela described the occasion as 'one of the most important days in Malta’s green transition'. Photo: Jonathan Borg

A transport ministry spokesperson told Times of Malta that various cruise liners are retrofitting the technology and will be OPS-ready by the end of this year. 

An energy ministry spokesperson said energy usage would be charged at unsubsidised commercial rates determined by the energy regulator. Ships will not be obliged to use the technology until the EU Fit for 55 regulation comes into force in 2030. 

The system is capable of providing 64 Megavolt Amperes of power, using frequencies of 11KV or 5.5KV at 50Hz or 60Hz frequencies. 

Launching the project on Wednesday, Abela described the occasion as “one of the most important days in Malta’s green transition.”

He said technology like OPS allows the maritime industry to grow with fewer environmental consequences. 

“We either shrink the maritime economy or invest in projects that overcome the challenges,” Abela said, shaded from the summer sun by the MSC World Europa, a cruise liner that is equipped with OPS technology.

He said the government is implementing a similar shore-to-ship project near the Freeport in Birżebbuġa. Infrastructure Malta has in the past said that it will also extend shore-to-ship power facilities to the Palumbo shipyard in Cospicua, but Abela made no mention of those plans during Wednesday's press conference.

Transport Minister Chris Bonett said Malta is the first Mediterranean port to have the technology available.

The new system is expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moored ships will also produce 40 per cent less greenhouse gases, Bonett said.

The project, which cost €33 million, was co-financed by the EU.

Energy minister Miriam Dalli was also at the event. 

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