Applications solicited for leading ports



Nick Martin, Program Manager, Global Environment & Technology Foundation, Environmental Management Division, Arlington, VA, USA


Managing today’s complex realities through Environmental and Security Management Systems

All over the world, ports manage large and small operations that directly impact the environment, human health and safety of millions of citizens in the communities which they operate.

Economic pressures of a competitive marketplace, increasing federal regulations and potential vulnerability to security breaches combine to create additional, multifaceted challenges for port operators and managers. But even as ports across the nation grapple with these hurdles, they remain conscious of lessening their environmental impacts and protecting their local communities. Due to their complex, multi-modal structure, ports are well-positioned as test beds of innovation, seeking a systematic way to manage potential vulnerabilities, instill confidence in the citizens they serve, protect human health and the environment, and ensure uninterrupted operations which are vital to the economic health of the nation.

1st Ports EMS/SMS Assistance Project (2004-2005)

Embracing this culture of innovation, the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), Amer ican Association of Port Author ities (AAPA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S EPA) partnered on a groundbreaking initiative called the Ports EMS/SMS Assistance Project. In January 2004, eleven Seaports from throughout the nation kicked off a two-year Environmental/Security Management System (EMS and SMS) implementation effort based upon the ISO 14001 International Standard. Through participation in this project, each port has received training, technical assistance, and mentoring aimed at effectively and efficiently implementing a management system within a port-defined area of operations (e.g., Central Maintenance Facility). The partnership is currently soliciting applications through October 31, 2005 for a 2nd Ports EMS/SMS Assistance Project (see details below) to begin in early 2006.

An EMS provides a systematic way to review and improve operations for better organisational performance. The beauty of this tool is that although it is based upon a standard set of elements, organisations can implement EMSs in many different ways, depending on the organisation’s activities, needs, available resources and capabilities. The ultimate goal is to incorporate sound environmental management into daily business. By incorporating environmental considerations into a port’s decisionmaking structure, an EMS introduces employees and tenants to more efficient business processes. As a “best practices” tool, an EMS enables ports to establish achievable goals with respect to managing environmental impacts and create action plans with milestones, resource requirements, and operational procedures needed to achieve those goals. An EMS follows Shewart and Deming’s well-known Quality Management approach of “plan, do, check, and act” which is a systems methodology rather than the traditional command and control approach of compliance systems, allowing organisations adopting this approach to more readily find, fix, and prevent recurrence of potential issues. The result is return on investment in the form of money saved, reduced liability, greater regulatory flexibility, as well as improved confidence on the management of environmental issues.

Moving beyond the traditional EMS

Taking the EMS approach one step further, the Port of Houston Authority decided to grow their Plan, Do, Check, Act approach, having previously developed an ISO 14001 registered EMS, to encompass management of security vulnerabilities in addition to established environmental controls. What many organisations have discovered is that a management system approach, institutionalising continuous improvement throughout the multiple layers of an organisation, can be employed cross-functionally to effectively manage daily operations under a single umbrella. This holds true for environment, security, safety and health, or risk management – all of which are critical issues to port operations. Leading organisations are realising that these elements are no longer mutually exclusive; rather they must be managed in orchestra. The Port of Houston Authority had the foresight to understand that an umbrella management system provided the ability to address, prioritise, and efficiently manage the complex risks and realities that confront them while also serving as role models for their communities and peers.

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