Global Sustainability Agenda #8: Why ports are at the heart of global sustainability transformation

Why ports are at the heart of global sustainability transformation

Global Sustainability Reality

Sustainable Development in Shipping and Ports – Maritime is critical for Global Trade and Development (World Bank)

Decarbonizing shipping: How to speed up the transition and ensure it’s fair (UNCTAD)

Ports of Singapore, Los Angeles, Long Beach unveil green corridor strategy (Port Technology)

New coalition to pave the way for first cross-Atlantic clean hydrogen shipment by 2026 (Offshore Energy)

Global Sustainability Business Impact

Port of Rotterdam: Five Hydrogen Startups Leading the Way in Corporate Collaboration (CSR Wire)

The Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Shanghai have issued an outline of a Green Shipping Corridor Implementation Plan to accelerate emissions reductions across the Pacific Ocean. (Port Technology)

Singapore, Tianjin pen green and digital corridor agreement (Port Technology)

Booker Announces $52.5 million to New Jersey Ports to Improve Operations, Enhance Sustainability (Booker)

DP World Targets 60% Renewable Power At Indian Terminals By 2026. (Maritime Gateway)

The path forward

Ports embrace a diversified set of economic activities, such as the flow of people and goods, distribution centers or warehouses, port operators, auxiliary maritime services, ship agencies, financing firms, third-party logistics providers, shipping carriers, and a diversified portfolio of surrounding industries. In addition, they create social cohesion among surrounding communities and their related employees and a direct and indirect economic multiplier effect from port users’ spending, contributing to national, regional, and global GDP. Thus, ports are powerful socioeconomic drivers for regional and global economies.

With more than 80% of global trade by volume carried by maritime transport, ports play a crucial role in fostering sustainable development. Their ability to deal strategically with a wide range of situations in complex and difficult environments, their global outreach, their multi-stakeholder engagement, their managerial capability to influence the attitudes of civil society and political actors, and because of their power in building legitimacy and enforcing compliance through their networks, ports are at the heart of the global sustainability transformation.

Although the shipping sector has historically been associated with environmental challenges, including air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and the introduction of invasive species through ballast water, here are some ways in which ports contribute to sustainable development:

Trade and Economic Growth:

Ports serve as key hubs for international trade, facilitating the movement of goods and fostering economic growth.

Efficient port operations contribute to increased trade, job creation, and enhanced economic activity, supporting the development of both local and global economies.

Job Creation:

Ports generate employment opportunities directly through port operations and indirectly through related industries and services.

Job creation contributes to poverty reduction and improved livelihoods, aligning with social sustainability goals.

Infrastructure Development:

Ports often act as catalysts for infrastructure development in surrounding areas. Improved roads, railways, and other transportation links can result from port-related activities, enhancing connectivity and accessibility.

Environmental Impacts:

Sustainable port management includes measures to minimize environmental impacts. Ports are increasingly adopting green practices, such as using cleaner fuels, implementing waste reduction strategies, and investing in renewable energy sources.

Safety and Security:

Ensuring the safety and security of port operations is essential for sustainable development. Secure ports are better positioned to attract investments and foster long-term economic development.

Community Engagement:

Ports can engage with local communities to address their needs and concerns. This can involve consultation processes, community development projects, and initiatives to enhance the overall well-being of local residents.

Technological Innovation:

Ports are embracing technological advancements to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. Automation, smart logistics, and digital technologies contribute to more sustainable and resilient port operations.

Resilience and Adaptation:

Ports are vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. Sustainable ports incorporate resilience measures and adaptation strategies to mitigate risks and ensure continued operations.

International Collaboration:

Ports serve as international gateways, fostering collaboration and partnerships between countries. Cooperative efforts can lead to shared solutions for sustainable development challenges.

Regulatory Compliance:

Ports are subject to various environmental protection, safety, and labor standards regulations. Adhering to and exceeding these standards demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices.

Digitalization and Smart Shipping:

Data Analytics: Digital technologies and data analytics are used to optimize ship routes, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce overall environmental impact.

Smart Shipping Practices: IoT devices, sensors, and automation can contribute to more efficient and environmentally friendly operations.

Green Ports and Infrastructure:

Shore Power: Ports are investing in shore power infrastructure, allowing ships to plug into the electrical grid while in port, reducing the need for onboard generators and associated emissions.

Green Port Initiatives: Ports are implementing sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy sources for port operations and adopting environmentally friendly technologies.

Alternative Fuels:

Research and development are ongoing to explore and implement alternative fuels like hydrogen, ammonia, and biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Efficiency:

Improved Ship Design: Green shipping involves designing ships with better hydrodynamics and energy-efficient technologies to reduce fuel consumption.

Wind-Assist and Solar Power: Some ships incorporate wind-assist technologies, such as sails or rotor sails, and use solar panels to harness renewable energy and reduce reliance on traditional fuel sources.

Emission Monitoring and Reporting:

Ship Emission Monitoring Systems (SEMS): These systems help ships monitor and report emissions, promoting transparency and accountability.

Collaboration and Industry Initiatives:

Global Collaboration: The maritime industry works collaboratively through international organizations, industry alliances, and partnerships to develop and implement green shipping initiatives.

In summary, ports play a multifaceted role in sustainable development by contributing to economic growth, job creation, infrastructure development, environmental stewardship, technological innovation, energy efficiency, community engagement, and international collaboration. Strategic and responsible management practices are essential to ensure that ports contribute positively to the well-being of present and future generations.

Beatriz Canamary

Beatriz Canamary is a consultant in Sustainable and Resilient Business, Doctor and Professor in Business, Civil Engineer, specialized in Mergers and Acquisitions from the Harvard Business School, and mom of triplets. Today she is dedicated to the effective application of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Multinationals.

She is an ESG enthusiast and makes it possible to carry out sustainable projects, such as energy transition and net-zero carbon emissions. She has +15 years of expertise in large infrastructure projects.

Member of the World Economic Forum, Academy of International Business and Academy of Economics and Finance.