Ports and the Environment: Challenge and Solutions
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All European ports face a common challenge: to develop their businesses and manage their activities in a way that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally. Finding good solutions to environmental issues can lead to cost savings and new business opportunities.
ECOPORTS is a research and development project co-funded by the European Commission, DG Transport and Energy (TREN) and 12 ports and port organizations. The programme involves 5 universities and 7 specialist organizations. It is a port-inspired initiative developed by ports, for ports, specifically to address environmental issues with cost-effective response options. All ports in Europe can benefit through membership of the ECOPORTS Foundation (see below).
ECOPORTS has a well-established track record of producing practicable options for the effective management of the port environment as it is built on the success of the original ECO-information Project (1997- 1999) in which over 80 ports from throughout Europe took part.
The main objective of ECOPORTS is to establish pan-European network of ports with a policy of voluntary, self-regulation on environmental issues. Specific goals are to:
- Create a 'level playing field' in terms of the implementation of environmental legislation, and to remove the environmental component as a competitive factor between ports.
- Develop and implement cost effective and practicable solutions specifically targeted at environmental protection and sustainable development
- Provide a focus for business opportunities and port development
- Demonstrate good performance and best practice of the European port sector in terms of environmental duties and responsibilities
- Contribute to continuous improvement of the port environment
The ECOPORTS approach is based on voluntary collaboration and exchange of experience between seaports, inland ports and dry ports throughout Europe. Port authorities themselves identify the environmental challenges faced by the port professional, and specify the development required in terms of appropriate tools and methodologies to assist in effective management action.
Existing products available to all port members of the ECOPORTS Foundation include:
- Self Diagnosis Methodology (SDM): a validated procedure that assists ports to establish their base-line performance in terms of comparison with best practice guidelines and to assess their environmental management status against the European benchmarks. The feed-back provides GAP and SWOT analysis which assists ports to identify priorities for action.
- Port Environmental Review System (PERS): another validated procedure that assists ports to implement the first stages of a credible Environmental Management System. It can be used as a preliminary step to a more comprehensive system such as ISO 14000 but allows phased development. Following PERS establishes the core elements of an EMS. PERS is identified as a standard for port environmental management by the ECOPORTS Foundation, and as such, it carries the voluntary option of independent review (currently carried out by Lloyd's Register, Rotterdam, on behalf of the Foundation) with a Certificate of Validation for ports that reach the standard. This is an important new development for ports in Europe as it demonstrates attainment of a benchmark standard.
ECOPORTS is currently developing the following packages due to be available to participating ports during the Project:
- Strategic Overview of Significant Environmental Aspects: a methodology for ports to assess the major impacts of their activities and to check that they have sufficient information by which to manage their liabilities and responsibilities.
- Decision Support System: a methodology to examine the range of factors involved in environmental issues, their interactions, and response options in decision-making.
- Database of best-practice solutions to key environmental challenges.
- Environmental Management Information System: a networked system that integrates all the components of ECOPORTS into an easily accessed system that can be interrogated by port professionals for purposes of practicable and cost-effective management options.
Benefits to individual ports of joining the ECOPORTS Foundation:
- Identification of business opportunities by applying smart solutions to environmental issues
- Saving of costs by applying best practices from other ports, and by avoiding duplication of effort
- Shared costs of developing new techniques and management tools
- Access to network of environmental experience and expertise
- Opportunity to influence policy development