Environmental evolution: logical development of stakeholder response in the port sector

Time and tide

The well known, sixteenth century adage that ‘Time and tide wait for no man’ is particularly pertinent to the port sector’s response to the environmental imperative.

The range of stakeholders involved in the plethora of environmental responsibilities, liabilities and issues in and surrounding the port area, is a far cry from the time when port authorities alone dealt with just the direct impacts of cargo handling.

The pace of change in legislation and regulation, the further globalisation of trade, the enhanced sensitivity of local communities to port development, and the increased commercial pressures to reduce costs and risks have all impacted on port management as the sector seeks to deliver sustainable development through voluntary, self-regulation.

The net widens

Pressure from clients and customers, and an increasing awareness of the potential, mutual benefits of collaboration between port authorities, operators and tenants have focussed interest not only in environmental management of the port area but also of the Logistic Chain itself.

At the recent Third International Conference of the EcoPorts Foundation, Professor F. J. Radermacher (Director, Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing, ULM) stated that Information Technology and Transportation are the two critical networks in the global systems that have the power to be forces for sustainable change. He appealed to all players in transport worldwide to collaborate and develop a model for managing the logistics chain in a sustainable fashion.

The port sector recognises its own critical role in this process and can demonstrate a pro-active response to the challenges inherent in the concept. The sector is well-configured and represented both globally and locally to innovate and implement in the complex system that is the logistic chain.

For example, at the global level, organisations such as the International Association of Ports and Harbours with its NGO Consultative status from the United Nations Environmental Programme, and PIANC with its policies and resolutions on sustainable navigation systems both have environmental issues embedded in their  respective programmes.

At the European level, environmental policy is developed and promulgated through the European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) where Environment is one of the four technical committees. At local, port-area scale, it may reasonably be suggested that the activities of the EcoPorts Foundation (EPF) and its constituent port partners, strongly supported by ESPO, has made a substantive contribution to actual implementation of sector policy through the development and delivery of practicable, cost-effective tools and methodologies.

Collaboration with stakeholders throughout the Logistic Chain is a logical evolution of the EPF driving concept of an expanding network of ports exchanging environmental experience, reducing costs by sharing environmental research and development, and attaining compliance with legalisation through high standards of environmental management systems.

Evidence of progress

A global survey of a random sample of 50 port websites showed that 76 per cent provided evidence of environmental management or planning online, and 50 per cent published an environmental policy online. 32 per cent put environmental monitoring data online but only 14 per cent advertised the achievement of ISO/ EMAS/or other certification of environmental management system.

There were variations in the response between the Americas, Europe and Oceania (Wooldridge and Stojanovic, 2004). In Europe, the sustained programme of workshops and conferences, training programmes and on-line services provided by the EPF has contributed towards sustained, continuous improvement in several of the key areas of environmental management, as shown in Table 1.

The table demonstrates desirable trends in the adoption and implementation of best practice amongst port members of the EPF. Much of the progress has been achieved because environmentalissues are viewed as pre-competitive by Foundation partners and this encourages genuine collaboration where ‘ports-help-ports’ and the Foundation Secretariat provides the coordination backed by specialist analytical services from its neutral, University partners.

Further evidence of progress is the increasing number and widening geographical location of EPF members that have achieved the Port Environmental Review System (PERS) standard. This methodology is an increasingly popular choice by port authorities that wish to initiate a form of environmental management system (EMS) without immediately committing to an international standard such as ISO 14001 or EMAS.

Herman Journée, Chairman, EcoPorts Foundation and Director Strategic Development, Port of Amsterdam, Netherlands, & Dr Christopher Wooldridge, Science Coordinator, EcoP
Edition: Edition 33

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