Digitalisation, green port design amongst research ‘pillars’ for Antwerp-led PIONEERS project

ANTWERP, BELGIUM - JUL 9, 2013: Container ships moored at a Independent Maritime Terminal in the Port of Antwerp.

The Port of Antwerp will lead a 46-strong consortium of ports and stakeholders in schemes including sustainable port design and digital transformation as part of the PIONEERS project.

The €25 million ($30 million) EU Horizon 2020-funded PORTable Innovation Open Network for Efficiency and Emissions Reductions Solutions (PIONEERS) initiative will bring together leading ports, terminal, and transport operators to develop efficiencies in maritime.

In an interview with PTI, Hanna Van Kraaij, Funding Manager at the Port of Antwerp, said the aim of the project is to “inspire transferability” to ports.

Best practice on digitalisation and green technologies will be researched amongst the ports involved: Port of Antwerp, Port of Barcelona, Port of Constanta, and the Port of Venlo.

“Scaling up and/or transferring projects to the fellow ports is one of the main pillars of the project. Also, the other way around, our fellow ports will realise some specific demonstrations which can then be transferred to Port of Antwerp,” Van Kraaij said.

“We have made a list of projects in each port and the other ports interested in uptake for each specific project financed by PIONEERS as well as several linked actions financed through other channels that are already ongoing in the partner ports.”

One of the working cycles the Port will contribute to is the creation of a Green Port Masterplan, serving as a guideline to all port stakeholders interested in greening their port operations towards 2030 and 2050 EU emissions targets.

Port community challenges

Some 19 projects have been chosen to focus on as areas needed for green innovation, however confidentiality agreements in place with consortium partners means the exact contents will remain unknown until the scheme begins.

The projects will seek to alleviate pan-European challenges facing ports in areas including start-up financing; technological and regulatory barriers; and port community engagement.

“It was a challenge to limit ourselves to these 19 projects,” said Van Kraaij.

“The focus was mainly to address the four research pillars of clean energy production & storage, sustainable port design, modal shift & flows optimisation and digital transformation and select the demonstrators with the highest expected impact.”

The project will take an innovative approach to port community engagement – including promoting sustainable forms of commuting by port workers within city and surrounding regions, Van Kraaij said.

Barcelona, Constanta, and Venlo

The Port of Antwerp’s own facilities and progress made in the field of drones and smart shipping provides a “unique ecosystem” for scalability to ports of all sizes, Van Kraaij said.

“If a technology can prove itself in a complex environment like ours, this is a very solid basis for further scaling up,” she added.

There will be some projects ongoing by the associated ports which are not covered by PIONEERS funding but will fall under PIONEERS portfolio as a ‘linked action’.

“This way, the portfolio of systems, processes and solutions will inspire the ports in the consortium and the wider stakeholder network,” Van Kraaij outlined.

“For Port of Antwerp, these linked actions include, for example, specific projects in the field of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), hydrogen trucks, wind energy, and power-to-X [technologies].”

The call allowed for a maximum of three fellow ports and one ‘lighthouse’ leader port per application, Van Kraaij explained. But the project will emphasise scalability across the ports and stakeholders they will interact with.

“The Ports of Barcelona and Constanta as well as the inland port of Venlo participate in PIONEERS and will contribute on the design of the demonstrators,” she said.

“The selection of these ports was a key point during the proposal preparation since they provide an excellent mix of size, type and scope to ensure that whatever is built in the Port of Antwerp is applicable to a large variety of European ports.

“PIONEERS ports locations with access to the North, Mediterranean and Black Sea will bring to the knowledge tank of the project, experiences and practices that will allow all ports to benefit.”

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