DPAQ Study


Ship emissions contain sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (PM) that impact on human health and the environment. The aim of this project is to assess, for the first time, the contribution of shipping emissions to air pollution in Dublin. The research will use an innovative combination of continuous air monitoring, intensive field campaigns and source apportionment modelling. Continuous monitoring will focus on the following key air pollutants; PM, heavy metals, black carbon, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone. Highly detailed chemical and physical characterisation of ship emissions will also be achieved using state-of-the-art mass spectrometers operating in real-time. This chemical composition data will be used in source apportionment models to provide quantitative estimates of all major source contributions to PM, including shipping and other port-related emissions, road traffic, domestic solid fuel burning, construction and industry. The results will be used to inform policy on air pollution reduction strategies and provide recommendations and mitigation options for reducing emissions from ships in the Dublin Port area.

Scientific Background

Air pollution is one of the most readily identifiable pressures on human health and the environment. Gaseous pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides lead to acidification, eutrophication and secondary particle formation, while PM has a significant impact on human health. Indeed, the European Environment Agency has estimated that over 1,200 premature deaths occur every year in Ireland as a direct result of exposure to air pollution, mainly fine particulate matter (PM2.5). As part of the EU CAFE Directive, Ireland is required to reduce the average concentration of PM2.5 across Ireland. This is a major challenge and identifying ways to achieve this reduction is a key national environmental research priority.

In order to provide a sound scientific basis for policies and strategies to reduce PM emissions, detailed information on the various source categories is required. Research carried out over the last decade has identified residential solid fuel burning and road traffic as the major contributors to PM2.5 across Ireland. This information has informed national policies and initiatives such as the nationwide ban on the use of bituminous (smoky) coal, a greatly expanded air quality monitoring programme and the adoption of a new National Clean Air Strategy.

In contrast, the contribution of shipping emissions to ambient PM levels in Ireland is largely unknown. The results of the ELIPSE project indicated a minor impact in terms of primary PM mass concentrations in Cork Harbour, however, this study was performed 10 years ago when the volume of shipping traffic was lower. Dublin Port is considerably larger than Cork and is also located very close to the city centre. While marine traffic in Dublin is dominated by ferries and cargo ships, a large number of cruise ships also dock in the port. The absence of shore-side electrical power supplies means that electricity has to be generated by the ship’s diesel engine. This process, called “hoteling”, accounts for the vast majority of emissions from cruise ships in port. The amount of PM2.5 emitted during hoteling is extremely high and corresponds to the emissions from up to 2000 idling trucks. With plans for significant expansion of Dublin port, it is clear that the impact of emissions from cruise ships and other marine vessels on air quality in Dublin needs to be assessed as a matter of urgency.

The overall aim of the Dublin Port Air Quality (DPAQ) project is to determine the impact of shipping emissions on air quality in Dublin and provide policy recommendations and mitigation options for reducing pollution. This will be achieved through a combined measurement-analysis approach involving;

(i) continuous year-long monitoring of the chemical composition of PM in real-time;

(ii) a multi-instrument intensive field campaign conducted during the height of shipping activity;

(iii) detailed source apportionment models providing robust quantitative estimates of the impact of shipping emissions and other major pollution sources on Dublin air quality.

The results will provide Dublin Port Company and other stakeholders (Dublin City Council and EPA) with a sound scientific basis for developing an air quality action plan for the Dublin Port area. An air quality action plan involving strategies to reduce pollution from every source (ships, cargo-handling equipment, harbour craft, trucks etc.) would provide valuable support for implementation of the MARPOL convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships) and the proposed National Clean Air Strategy. Furthermore, this research would also inform the deployment of permanent monitoring equipment in the Dublin Port area in order to measure the impact of the mitigation measures on air quality.

Project Team

The DPAQ study is a collaborative research project involving the Centre for the Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC) in UCC and the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS) in NUIG.

Project Co-ordinator – Prof John Wenger (UCC).

Co-Principal Investigators – Dr Stig Hellebust (UCC), Dr Jurgita Ovadnevaite (NUIG), Prof Colin O’Dowd (NUIG).

Post-Doctoral Researchers – Dr Kirsten Fossum (NUIG), Dr Srishti Jain (UCC).

Funding Details

This research project is funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Research Programme 2014-2020.

Project Title: Source Apportionment of Air Pollution in the Dublin Port Area
Grant Number: 2020-CCRP-LS.6
Start date: 01/03/2021
End date: 29/02/2024
Budget: €499,961.97


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Contact Details

Prof. John Wenger

Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry

Lab B1, Kane Building, University College Cork, College Rd, Cork, Ireland