Reactive to proactive
The European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) has consistently championed a policy of voluntary self-regulation in terms of demonstrating compliance with environmental legislation, and in dealing with the practical considerations of implementing the var ious European Union (EU) Directives relating to environmental protection and sustainable development. Since 1993, the sector has supported collaborative research into selected environmental issues in order to develop effective tools and methodologies to assist port managers in carrying out their environmental responsibilities and identifying the associated liabilities and risks. It is recognised that the ‘goalposts’ of national and international legislation and regulation have widened considerably in terms of the range of issues covered and the standards set for performance.
Similarly, stakeholder pressure has also broadened in the number of interested parties tracking the activities and credentials of the port sector as to the manner in which it carries out its environmental responsibilities. Another significant catalyst for action has been the objective of achieving the so-called ‘level playing field’ in terms of equitable interpretation and enforcement of legislation and regulation across the EU.
The port sector recognised at an early stage that environmental issues should not be factored in as competitive components between ports. In so far as environmental issues are often trans-boundary and common to all ports, this approach is pragmatic and has certainly encouraged cooperation and collaboration. Indeed, the development of shared-cost, practicable solutions to environmental challenges and the free exchange of knowledge and experience has become the key component of the sector’s environmental research and development strategy – widely recognised now as the ‘Eco-concept’. According to this concept, a ‘bottom-up approach’ is directed at the policy level of ports, but also at the level of implementation of environmental rules in practice by port managers. In this way, similar and standard solutions can be brought into practice in a competition neutral collaboration. This stimulates the creation of competition neutral environmental improvements in ports, which is the main objective of EcoPorts: To integrate economy and environment in a cost and environmentally effective way.
The framework for this mutual collaboration was developed through joint activities instigated and funded by Primary Port Partners and part-funded by EC Research and Development Programmes such as Eco-Information (1997-2000) and EcoPorts (2002-2005). The cooperation between port professionals, academic researchers and specialist organisations has proved to be a potent mix in terms of delivering a functional framework of cost-effective solutions developed to implement policies and produce continuous improvement of the port environment. Throughout this evolution, the ‘Eco’ R & D projects have maintained close links with ESPO, so that the practical outcomes of the former, have assisted implementation of the policies of the latter – a powerful synergy in terms of delivering effective port environmental management.
The issue of risk management, the functional organisation of activities aimed specifically at controlling, reducing or mitigating the chance or possibility of loss, injury or damage from the port’s activities, is high on the agenda of the business plan of most progressive companies and is certainly factored into insurance premiums and investment assessments. Although the response to environmental issues per se is not deemed competitive, it is a fact that a port authority’s ability to manage its environment risk is demonstrably a key issue in planning applications for port development, and the ability of a port to expand (or not) certainly affects the port’s competitive status. The tools and methodologies produced as results of the collaborative R & D Programmes have provided port (environmental) managers with a useful armoury of resources with which to implement best practice. They have all been validated and applied during the course of the EcoPorts Project and are available as part of the environmental support services provided by the EcoPorts Foundation (EPF – see following sections).
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