Sustainable Development

In recent years, the sustainability has been at the core of development in all industries. The idea of sustainability stems from the concept of sustainable development which became common language at the World’s first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Sustainable development has been defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). It is also defined by the  World Commission on Environment and Development as “A process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations”.

Sustainable development has emerged as the guiding principle for long-term global development. Consisting of three pillars, sustainable development seeks to achieve, in a balanced manner, economic development, social development and environmental protection. The concept is highlighted in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Transforming our world. Determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets demonstrate the scale and ambition to seek the human rights of all, and to achieve gender equality. These goals are integrated and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

The Sustainable Future Ports

Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. The sustainable future port is a concept considering not only to the economical scope but also the environmental and social scopes. The concept of “Sustainability” for ports is the integration of the environmentally friendly methods of port activities, operations and management. In other words, in a sustainable way: Any development causes the minimum possible impacts, contributing to improving measures and controls for the quality of the air, water, noise and waste.

Future ports are committed to being green while building prosperity for current and future generations.  For this purpose, the port sustainability will be the core of development strategies and plans;  beyond ‘systems and policies’. It could be the most important step for ports towards becoming a more sustainable business, setting a foundation in which to evolve. Within the scope of sustainability, the future port approach can be achieved through sustainable planning with five crucial steps of smart port operations, preserve of the environment, the human element, planning a bright future, and port communities, (See below figure).

Source: Retrieved from the sustainability review of North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP)

The sustainability plans should be dynamic, therefore to be reviewed each year to ensure that the ports remain abreast of emerging industry trends and new technologies. Ther are some measures for the establishment of future sustainable seaports, including but not limited to:

  1. The application of policies and regulatory framework at ports for the reduction of the emissions of harmful substances,
  2. A green design of the port-city landscape and integration of port to the urban area which includes trees that absorb noise and air pollution,
  3.  Utilization of renewable energy sources in port operations and activities,
  4. The transition of the ports from the linear economy to the Circular Economy in order to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimizing negative impacts.
  5. Establishment of the    Energy Management System (EnMS) and/or Environmental Management System to improve the port environmental profile and increase the energy efficiency.
  6. Application of best practices from leading ports in environmental issues, such as ports with certificates labelled as EcoPorts initiative.
  7. The inclusion of the term “green growth “in the further development of the port systems and the establishment of environmental planning within the mentioned areas.
  8. Digitalization and automation of port operations and activities.

The Port Authorities have a significant potential place to approach to facilitate the transition of our ports to the sustainable profile, many of them acting in multi-roles as area-manager, estate owner, a player in the logistic chain, administrators, local regulators, developers and managers of infrastructure, operators, and Partner in the community. Within the scope of the sustainable ports of the future, a role can be defined as Port Sustainability Manager (PSM) in the port authority organizational chart. It is to have a focus on coordination of future vision with the relevant stakeholders, port spatial plan, port infrastructure development planning, co-planning of the port hinterland strategy with competitive ports , and developing an adaptive Masterplan for port vision. The PMS could be the person who holds the position of the port energy manager, or also the head of the port environmental department.

However, the roles of the other players and stakeholders that directly /indirectly affect the port activities or being affected by port activities should be taken into consideration. These important players could be governmental organizations at the local, regional and national levels, financial institutions and banks, consultants and contractors, NGO’s, and knowledge centres. The role of the knowledge centres, mostly the universities and research institutions, are very unique among the above-mentioned stakeholders since approaching the Port of the Future concept requires new initiatives, innovations and solutions to support the current port challenges.

There are practices in Green Development of the Ports across the world like the Blue Economy approach in port’s influence area, network governance of ports along with public-private partnerships,  integration of development plans between city & port, synchronization of modalities at port hinterlands for optimization and  efficient operations, and the use of low emission bunker fuels in Ports (LNG initiatives).

Environmental concerns of the European Ports

Seaports are one of the main drivers of the pressure on the environment across the world, especially because of the fact that most of the ports and terminals are located close to the urban areas (city areas). In Europe, since 1996, European Shipping and Ports Organization(ESPO) and EcoPorts initiative regularly have monitored the top environmental priorities of European port authorities. The identification of the high priority environmental issues in EU can help to set the framework for guidance and initiatives to be taken toward a sustainable future. The below table of the top ten environmental concerns of the European ports issued by the ESPO, built on the data and information collected by the ESPO from 91 ports.).

European Policy for SeaPorts

Directives of the European Union are focused on the “green” development of seaports, where the major attention is at environmental protection and the energy efficiency. As indicated in the port and maritime EU directives, the concept of the “sustainability” and “green” are identified as mutual dependence. Europe’s ports are crucial to the Europe economy due to the fact that they act as gateways, linking its transport corridors to the rest of the world.  74% of goods entering or leaving Europe to go by sea. Ports also play a significant role to support the exchange of goods and cargos in the internal market and also in linking peripheral and island areas with the mainland of Europe. In 2013, The EU Commission adopted an initiative aimed at improving port operations and onward transport connections at the 329 key seaports.This initiative is progressively implemented through a set of legislative measures and non-legislative measures as follow:

  • Regulation (EU) 2017/352 of establishing a framework for the provision of port services and common rules on the financial transparency of ports.
  • Application and modernization of the State aid rules, in the context of the competition policy.
  • Promotion and support of the European social dialogue between port workers and their employees and of training.
  • Support to better planning, financing and funding of port infrastructure and their connections in the trans-European network.
  • Initiatives to raise the environmental of ports by promoting the exchange of good practices. As part of its research and innovation agenda, the Commission launched in 2016 the “Port of the Future call as part of the Horizon 2020 programme to encourage innovation in ports and the links with port cities.


There are projects, platforms and initiatives that working on defining the ports of the future concept. They mainly are exploring the approaches to facilitate the transition of the EU Ports to the low-carbon economy, with the core of sustainable development. DocksTheFuture (DTF), by the European Commission, will define the Port of the Future, meant as a near future (2030) which should face challenges related to simplification and digitalization of processes, dredging, emission reduction, energy transition, electrification, smart grids, port- city interface and the use of renewable energy management. Within the scope of this project Research and innovation actions should address several of the following aspects:

― Multi-modal optimized cost-effective and flexible operations inside the terminal and in the wider port area.

― Sustainable maintenance, repair and reconfiguration.

― Better capacity management with reduced costs and land use.

―  Low environmental impact, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and moves towards the circular economy.

― Advanced and efficient links and integration in the socio-economic industrial and urban surrounding environment

― Efficient connections with the hinterland transport network contributing to an increased use of the most energy-efficient transport modes, in particular, rail.

Image result for circle srl

Italy-based consultancy Circle Srl company has been selected as coordinator for this EU project that started in January 2018. Circle has been leading a working group consisting of academic partners ISL Institut für Seeverkehrswirtschaft und Logistik – ISL in Bremen, Germany and the University of Genoa, together with consulting companies Magellan (Portugal) and Ports Expertise (Belgium). The project will also provide for a Communication and Dissemination Plan addressed to all TEN-T Core and Comprehensive Ports and main port stakeholders. Circle provides process and management consulting services, technological solutions and digital marketing services for transport and logistics. Its MILOS software platform is aimed at optimization of any kind of cargo transport.

Author: R.Karimpour