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GreenTech 2021: Breaking the Chicken or Egg Conundrum

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It is well recognised in industry nowadays that to truly become a Green Port and meet sustainability targets, significant monetary and organisational commitment will be required.

Whether it be investment in onshore power, low-or-zero-carbon fuel bunkering and handling equipment, or digitising assets, long-term commitment is pivotal.

Often in debates on reducing emissions, stakeholders lament the ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma. How can a terminal make a decision on onshore power investment when it cannot be sure the uptake of the vessels coming into its berths? Or how can a shipping line on the marine side of the supply chain commit to increased data sharing, when inland logistics actors cannot – or will not – respond in-kind?

During PTI’s first-ever GreenTech for Ports and Terminals 2021, the message was clear to break the conundrum.

You can watch back on-demand here. PTI’s Editorial Team brings you some key highlights from the seminars.

Collaborative mindset

Shalin Shah, Head of Sustainability & Environment at Adani Ports & SEZ Ltd., said Adani Ports has made a strong forward step through setting the ambitious target of becoming climate-neutral by 2025.

Shah told a Day One session that cooperation across supply chain nodes will be a key driver in reducing the operator’s emissions.

“We need to focus more with upstream and downstream [actors] and their real challenges,” Shah told the audience.

“Ambition levels are very high. As part of Adani ports, we have understood how we can decarbonise: through working closely with other stakeholders,” he said. Working collaboratively across India on improved data share and understanding the favoured investment strategies of electrified and alternative fuels, for example, will be critical to make wholesale reductions on CO2 emissions.

On the topic of alternative fuels, the event’s Day Two panel discussion emphasised the need for greater cross-sector clarity on regulation and standardisation in future bunkering and vessel requirements for ports of all sizes.

Digitisation

Though the sustainability benefits do not always spring to mind first when discussing digitalisation, getting smarter, faster, and reducing wasted moves in a logistics process can be pivotal in reaching carbon reduction targets.

A key tenet of the ‘Informing Sustainable Decisions with Big Data and IoT’ panel discussion rested on how transformational a Smart Port can be.

Joan Meseguer, Head of Big Data and AI at Fundación Valenciaport, said the collaborative Green C Ports project leveraged IoT-connected sensors and improved data share to reduce emissions.

The Port of Valencia leveraged predictive analysis and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to better predict the trucking sector’s exit and entry times within its complex, mitigating port-city congestion and CO2 pollution levels by 10%.

The Port of Piraeus, another member of the EU project, received two air quality sensors to implement into its Port Community System and better understand the location and impact of emissions of both vessels and inland multimodal sectors.

Increased and standardised data sharing – whether it be vessel Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), or trucking fuel usage waiting to enter a port complex – to become smarter and greener will be necessary to truly understand a logistics chain’s carbon footprint, echoed Jorge Martin, an International HSSE Professional.

But it has long been a polarising issue in supply chains on who takes the lead in creating the same platforms, languages, and parameters for what vital information should be exchanged – and when.

Martin said that shipping lines have been “brave” in stepping ahead of ports by announcing they will run vessels on methanol and LNG-powered vessels. The same needs to be done for data exchange.

“We need to break the barrier here, be brave [and] break the chicken or the egg dilemma. These days we have seen shipping lines be brave. Some have taken that first step – it’s the same with data exchange.”

Green financing: where to start?

A rapidly emerging factor in sector decarbonisation moving forward will be on green financing.

Green financing in the ports sector will come through many forms in the future: ports could acquire sustainability-linked loans such as the Port of Newcastle; or could take up financing options to invest into infrastructural projects such as hydrogen generation or zero-carbon cargo handling equipment.

Alistair Perkins, of NN Investment Partners based in the Netherlands, summarised the pan-industry imperative to look at sustainability in a multi-decade approach.

“We’re investing in core infrastructure sectors across Europe – this includes direct investments in ports and terminals,” he said. “We modified our strategy in 2018 and committed to a sustainable investment approach for all of our infrastructure debt investments.

“We did this because infrastructure investments are long-term. [The investments are] often 10 or 20 years for social infrastructure which may last 30 years or longer. It’s essential that with these investments that we need to have strong conviction that the asset will be a valuable and sustainable asset in the decades to come.”

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