Port sustainability is not usually something that you think about when it comes to ports. Think of a port and you might think of shipping containers, economic activity, the transfer of goods from sea to land. But there is strong interest from some port authorities in making their ports more sustainable, and in order to do this effectively you need to get everyone on board.
Recently I’ve been working with Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL), which aims to become a green port. My work has involved running workshops and consulting primarily with staff, but also external stakeholders, to develop a Green Port Master Plan that aligns with the Port’s Strategic Plan.
There are many ways in which the natural environment of a port is effected by human activity. Vessels coming into the port and at berth consume bunker oil or diesel, generating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The (illegal) dumping of oily bilge water, or dumping of waste is another water based impact, as is the abandoning of vessels. On land there is the impact of incineration of ship waste on air quality, the greenhouse gas and air pollution from cargo handling machinery in terminal operations, and trucks and vehicles. There is also the challenge of litter management, and upstream greenhouse gas emissions from the use of electricity.
The direct environmental impact of a port authority, such as FPCL, is relatively low in relation to the overall environmental impact of all port users. Looking at Port Sustainability from a holistic element involves engaging with both direct stakeholders, such as the terminal operator, vessel operators, shipping agents etc, the general public who use the port to board and disembark from ferries, and governmental organisations with responsibility for maritime safety and the environment.
Port Sustainability is not all Smooth Sailing
As with any company, the sustainability journey is not all smooth sailing. A particular challenge in creating a green port is engaging with port users who may not always be aware of the environmental impacts of their actions, or may even deliberately flout port environmental regulations, such as the dumping of oily bilge water in harbour.
In this respect port sustainability is not a short course race. Instead its like a long voyage. The journey is marked by times of gradual improvement, the occasional exhilarating progress associated with a large sustainability associated capital investment, and at times lulls in the journey as other considerations take priority. Indeed in some ways its a voyage that never ends, for what business in any endeavour is truly sustainable, with zero absolute environmental impact. But its marked by improvements such as lowered greenhouse gas emissions, reduced oil spills, litter rates going down, reduced use of natural resources, and with the environmental footprint of the port continually shrinking.
A dedicated policy and regularly reviewed sustainability master plan can be used as charts to direct and ensure ongoing improvement in sustainability performance.
Characteristics of Ports that are improving their Sustainability Performance
In working with a variety of ports in the Pacific, and looking at those which are successful in improving their sustainability performance, there are a few common characteristics. These include:
- Leadership from the top of the organisation. The CEO is strongly committed to making the port more sustainable.
- Buy-in to the sustainability vision from key staff whose decisions can have a big sustainability impact. Such as the port engineer.
- A willingness to invest, and interest in tapping into external funding sources.
- Effort put into tracking and measuring performance.
- An interest in engaging with the many stakeholders who use the port’s facilities.
All aboard for Port Sustainability!