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ESPO has released the results of its recent environmental review 2016 during the PORTOPIA conference in Lisbon in March. The aim of the review is to update the top 10 environmental priorities of European ports and to produce further benchmark figures in key areas of port environmental management. “This data is important as it identifies the high priority environmental issues on which ports are working and sets the framework for guidance and initiatives to be taken by ESPO” says Antonis Michail, senior policy advisor and EcoPorts coordinator at ESPO.

Air quality remains the number one priority of European ports, as in 2013. This is fully in line with the priority given to the subject at EU political level. The implementation of the Sulphur Directive and the ongoing political process on the air quality package have a clear role to play here.

Overall, all the priorities of the 2013 top 10 remain in the top 10 of 2016. There are though some variations in the ordering of the priority items. The relationship with the local community, port development and water quality are gaining importance. On the other hand, the handling of port waste, and dredging move down the top 10 scale.

Energy consumption becomes the second priority issue of European ports. Since 2009, the importance of energy consumption has raised year over year. One of the reasons is, of course, the direct link between energy consumption, and the carbon footprint of the ports and Climate Change.

Noise appears in number three and has remained a top priority issue since 2004. Relationship with the local community climbs at number four and confirms again the acknowledgement of ports on this important topic. It is clear that ports grant their license to operate and to grow from their local communities. The two waste items, port waste and ship waste, remain in the top 10 on the 5th and 6th position respectively. This shows once more the significance of waste management in ports and the ongoing discussion on the reception of ship generated waste as part of the revision of the port reception facilities directive. The climbing of water quality at number 8 can be linked with the implementation of the water framework directive and the ongoing discussions on the potential impact of washwater discharges by open loop scrubbers. Finally, it is interesting to note that port development (land), dredging operations, and dust are issues that have appeared consistently in the priority list of the European port sector over the last 20 years.


There are three key services/options that ports can consider implementing in order to enable and encourage better environmental performance by the vessels visiting the port. The provision of Onshore Power Supply (OPS), the provision of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bunkering facilities and the differentiation of port charges in order to reward greener vessels visiting the port, can all have a positive environmental impact in the performance of vessels and the local air quality in European ports at large. ESPO, EcoPorts and PORTOPIA consider timely and topical to monitor the current status and evolution regarding the application of these key services in European ports. Hence, the EcoPorts SDM checklist was updated in spring 2015 in order to allow for data collection in these three key areas.

The review of 2016 then is setting for the first time the baseline regarding the uptake of these services in European ports. Due to this recent SDM update, it is important to mention that the results presented in this section are based on the contribution of 61 ports (instead of the 91 ports that contributed to the rest of the indicators presented in this report). The baseline figures that are presented below should be interpreted with caution. They set the basis for the further monitoring of trends in the following years. The results confirm that offering differentiated port charges to reward greener vessels is an already well established practice in the majority of the respondent ports (62%). This is a voluntary practise by port authorities that choose to go further than controlling their own environmental impact and encourage a positive change of behaviour on the vessels performance side. Environmentally differentiated port charges are encouraged and promoted through the ESPO “Green Guide; towards excellence in port environmental management and sustainability.”

The results regarding the provision of Onshore Power Supply (OPS) require a careful interpretation. The overarching question “do you provide OPS?” encompasses both the provision of high and low voltage installations. In reality, in the big majority of cases, high voltage OPS is required in order to be used by commercial seagoing vessels. There are however few exceptions (e.g. ports of Stockholm and Helsinki) where low voltage OPS is also used by commercial ROPAX vessels. Despite therefore the surprising 53% of respondent ports that provide OPS in their port (either high or low voltage), the appropriate figure to be used in order to set the 2016 baseline for the provision of OPS for commercial vessels is the one that describes the provision of high voltage OPS. One out of five of the 61 respondent ports (20%) have such high voltage OPS installations in place. The low voltage OPS figures mainly relate to inland and domestics vessels as well as auxiliary vessels (e.g. tugs and/or other port authority vessels).