A review of research into the effects of shipping on air quality in Auckland: 2006-2016

Nick Talbot, Nick Reid
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
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The Auckland waterfront is an important multi-land use area for the city: Industrial and commercial entities such as the Ports of Auckland and fisheries share space with recreational facilities, tourists, businesses and shoppers in one of the most densely populated areas of New Zealand. The proximity of the port and the associated visiting vessels to this central Auckland location provides easy access to Auckland’s commercial centre for industry and tourists alike, but also raises concerns regarding possible impacts on the environment.

Studies carried out world-wide have shown that shipping emissions impact upon the air quality of coastal areas adjacent to shipping routes, to the detriment of human health and the local environment. Shipping vessels have been found to emit a far greater concentration of hazardous air pollutants when compared to land-based transport, which is attributed to their use of poor quality fuel. In light of these concerns, research has been carried out by several groups over the past decade to assess what impacts, if any, shipping vessels have on Auckland’s air quality and more particularly, that of the waterfront area.

Results from research with methodology based on measurements of sulphur dioxide (SO2) concentrations, indicate that SO2 levels are at their highest close to the waterfront area of Auckland. This is most apparent when winds are from the north-east. Moreover, measurements made over longer periods through the deployment of passive tubes show that concentrations of SO2 are up to four times higher at the waterfront than at any other site in Auckland.

Over the past decade, several studies have used SOand/or nickel and vanadium to identify shipping emission sources:

  • SOpassive monitoring study 2007 (McLeod, 2007).
  • Port emissions inventories 2006 and 2010 (Peeters, 2010).
  • Ports of Auckland SOmonitoring 2011-2014.
  • Source apportionment trends report 2006-2014 (Davy et al., 2014).
  • Spatially Resolved Techniques for Source Apportionment in New Zealand (SPARTANZ) (Longley et al., 2016).

This report describes the key outcomes from these five investigations, which are then summarised to provide an overview of our current understanding of how shipping emissions impact on Auckland’s air quality. By assessing the methodologies used and results obtained this document will serve as a useful reference point to guide future investigations. It is not within the scope of this report to comment on the operation of POAL, nor to advise on possible mitigation strategies.

Auckland Council technical report, TR2017/005

Last updated: 2017-12-22