How sustainable LEDs benefit ports and terminals

As anyone with experience in the maritime sector can attest, ports and freight terminals are busy, high-intensity environments that offer little margin for error. Operational schedules are tight, with unforeseen events of any kind introducing the possibility of delays and disruption elsewhere. Predictability is of critical importance as a result.

In addition to ensuring the efficiency of everyday operations, however, port operators also face broader challenges too. These include:


  • Environmental responsibility
    Globally, the shipping sector is responsible for almost 4% of the world’s carbon dioxide output . Although a significant amount of that output originates from vessels at sea, ports and terminals play a major role here too. With the International Maritime Organisation seeking to halve the industry’s emissions by 2050, port operators are under increased pressure to decarbonise.

  • Rising costs
    By their nature, ports are power-hungry facilities – an increasingly troubling reality for operators given recent increases in the price of power. Between January and April 2022, the World Bank’s energy price index rose by more than 26%, and that on the back of a 50% increase between January 2020 and December 2021 .

  • Health and Safety
    The pace and complexity of port environments can also make them dangerous. Vehicle collisions, slips, and trips, falls from height, and lifting operations all present a significant risk. One major research project from 2016 found that 70% of port workers around the world felt there was a high risk to their safety .

  • Customer experience
    Finally, there’s the issue of customer satisfaction to consider. Estimates suggest that around 30% of global cargo gets delayed while at or between ports , with the added interest on those waylaid items amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars each year according to some sources. As with emissions, operators are again under pressure to reduce those numbers.

    Clearly, it would be wrong to suggest that LED lighting can “solve” these issues. They are, after all, intensely complex challenges that have no single answer. At the same time, it is not unreasonable to suggest that LEDs can constitute at least part of the solution – delivering demonstrable benefits to health and safety, operations, and sustainability alike. 

Let’s look at the role LED lighting can play across each of those three.


  1. LED lighting can have a tangible impact on power consumption
    Many of the ports that are in operation today have been running for decades. Consequently, they are also reliant on lighting systems that were installed when they were originally built. Typically, these will involve the use of metal halide or high-pressure sodium (HPS) luminaires, both of which were first introduced more than a century ago.

    While those luminaires will likely have been replaced since the port opened, it’s the continued use of legacy technology that presents the greatest problem here. While HPS and metal halides may have been the only real option 20 or 30 years ago, the past decade has seen LED lighting become the default choice for ports that want to reduce the amount of power they use. 

    Compared to those outdated equivalents, LEDs have been shown to reduce energy consumption by between 50% and 70%. Naturally, that has significant implications not just from a sustainability perspective, but a financial one too. With power costs continuing to rise, LED lighting can help ports minimise their running costs as well as contributing to overall decarbonisation efforts.

  2.  LED lighting aids in the running of safer ports
    As mentioned above, ports and terminals are busy environments, something that also makes them amongst the highest risk in terms of working conditions. Vehicles are constantly on the move, as are large and heavy cargo containers, and portside equipment like mooring lights, cables, and lashing gear all present their own dangers too.

    Once again, legacy lighting approaches present issues here. HPS and metal halide lamps can be ill-equipped to withstand the harsh environmental conditions at a port, with heat, windage, and high salinity all capable of damaging and degrading a lighting system much faster than under “normal” operating conditions.

    Any drop in visibility presents a major safety hazard, one that can put lives at danger and expose operators to legal liability and other compliance risks. With modern LED luminaires offering both a longer lifespan and – in the case of Midstream’s products, at least – components designed to deal with tough maritime environments, they’re the smart choice from a safety perspective.

    3.    LED lighting supports effective portside operations
    Just as limited visibility has an impact on health and safety, it has serious consequences from an operational standpoint too. If workers are unable to see everything they need to, there is little option other than for work to cease until full clarity is restored. For ports, where congestion is already a pronounced problem, good lighting goes hand-in-hand with efficiency.

    Many issues come into play here; as well as the longevity considerations noted above, there is also the subject of lighting design to take into account. The right luminaires, installed strategically, can support effective working even through bad weather and dark nights. Smart planning can also help to minimise the impact of dirty power, commonplace at ports.

    Again, LED luminaires like our own – which are designed to deliver first-class performance in even the most demanding of conditions – provide ports with the best possible defence against disruption. In an industry in which every delay can carry severe financial consequences, that should be reason enough to explore a smarter approach to lighting.


To learn more about the benefits of LED lighting solutions at ports and terminals, please click the link below.


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