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REDSHIFT ASSOCIATES: Innovative air pollution service for UK smart city harbours and ports

Redshift Associates is a start-up company providing a structured consultancy service for applications and knowledge transfer of space technology, data and services into diverse business areas.

The company has established a network of consultancy and business associations to undertake, often in a leading role, development and innovation projects with SME partners and academic groups around the central theme of monitoring and mitigation of marine and urban air pollution and other emissions.

Determining pollution emissions in real-time

In the most recent addition to the Redshift portfolio, an innovative new service has been developed that can model and map air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions arising from shipping operations and associated road traffic in UK harbours and ports as well as emissions from shipping operating in coastal and international waters.

To help develop this service Redshift Associates signed up to SPRINT in a collaboration with the University of Leicester. Advanced analytic solutions and modelling techniques were developed to automatically obtain operational information on shipping location and movement from remote sensing data from the marine Automatic Identification System (AIS). Further development of algorithms from large-scale databases of shipping operations enables pollution and carbon emissions to be determined from shipping underway or in harbour, either retrospectively or in real time.

Through the use of the AIS solution, which makes extensive use of satellite services of position, location and timing information embedded in AIS messages, and satellite derived data of emissions background,  the SPRINT project has contributed substantially to the development of a space-enabled, commercial monitoring service for ports and harbours for maximising energy saving, pollution reduction, de-carbonisation and transition to renewable energy options for port operations.

Helping Belfast Harbour to move towards becoming smart and green port 

Throughout this feasibility study for the new service, the project team worked in partnership with the Belfast Harbour Commission to evaluate pollution emissions from shipping and other industrial activity, which enabled Redshift  to deliver a preliminary inventory of atmospheric emissions within the Harbour Estate, showing, for the first time, the contributions to overall air pollution from different classes of shipping, ranging from Ro-Ro ferries, container ships, cruise liners and general freight cargo.

Trevor Anderson, Belfast Harbour’s Director of Infrastructure and Business Transformation said: “This was a ground-breaking project which supports two of Belfast Harbour’s core objectives to be both a smart and a green port. We’ve already embarked upon a sustainability strategy which includes de-carbonising our energy uses and digital real time monitoring for air quality within the Belfast Harbour Estate. The Redshift Associates initiative enhances our commitment to uphold the highest environmental standards through innovative technology.” 

Benefits achieved as a result of the SPRINT project

  • £57,000 of new business generated from commercial clients in 2020-21.
  • Received €200,000 of European Space Agency funding for the Clean Air Clean Harbour Energy (CACHE 22) project.
  • On the back of SPRINT and the Belfast study, Redshift is currently an invited partner in three large scale industry led proposals around the themes of low emission and zero-carbon initiatives in the maritime sector.
  • Belfast Harbour study offers major contribution to CACHE 22.
  • Recruitment of two new associates to support CACHE 22 project.
  • A student on the University’s MSc in Data Analysis for Business Intelligence has set up his own business following his involvement in the SPRINT project which formed a significant part of the work in his first year of operation.

New approaches to combatting air pollution in ports and harbours

Professor Alan Wells, Founder and Director of Redshift Associates said: “The issue of air quality is one of the core challenges being addressed and explored by smart city strategies. Air quality and energy consumption are the highest environmental priorities for European ports according to the environmental report for 2019 of the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO).

“Redshift Associates brought together new approaches to air pollution in ports and harbours through satellite remote sensing. The basis of our collaboration with the University of Leicester, through the SPRINT programme, was its support in taking the visual data and applying a high level of validation and interpretation. This approach adds immense value by appreciating the ways in which you can apply analytics to a large amount of remote sensing data and turn that into applications with high commercial value.

“The SPRINT project has contributed significantly to the necessary proof of concept for an air quality service to determine air quality contributions from shipping taking due account of vessel type, location history, speed, and other operational features. Time dependent analytics, applied to integrated data sets from space enabled AIS information and extensive shipping logistical data have been shown to be the crucial inputs.”

Important contribution from University of Leicester

Jeremy Levesley, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Leicester added: “The use of data is often the last thing that people think about and a particular challenge is curating data in such a way that you can make sense of it in the most effective way. Working with Redshift Associates, the university helped to apply maths skills and technology tools to the collection, analysis and processing of the data.

“Multi-disciplinary work such as this SPRINT project is so important to our team at the university. We listen to the problems of others, apply our expertise and transform their thinking into viable solutions.” 

SPRINT leads on to major ESA-funded project

Following the completion of the SPRINT project, Redshift Associates has been successful with a proposal to the European Space Agency’s Ports of the Future initiative. The Clean Air Clean Harbour Energy (CACHE 22) project is a one-year feasibility study with an option to proceed with a large-scale operational demonstration in 2022.

The results from the joint study with Belfast Harbour have provided a major contribution to the CACHE 22 project which aims to develop space-enabled services for ports and harbours for maximising energy saving, pollution reduction, de-carbonisation and transition to renewable energy options for port operators to monitor and manage their air quality, zero-carbon strategies and environmental policies.

Redshift Associates will work alongside Geospatial Insight, Energeo and Bable Smart Cities with industry partners including Belfast Harbour, Port of Dover, Ports of Thessaloniki and Pireaus, and two smaller Northern Ireland provincial ports.

Alan Wells continues: “The CACHE 22 project will be using the analytics developed in SPRINT to develop a commercial monitoring space enabled service for port operators and provide support adoption of low carbon and low emission operations, transitions to renewable energy and low emission strategies and other zero carbon environmental policies and practices.

“Faced with the current tightening of air quality standards and net-zero carbon targets being adopted, port and harbour authorities will require new services, such as CACHE 22 will provide, as key elements of future operations and planning.”