20 years EcoPorts – Interview with the Port of Thessaloniki
EcoPorts, the main environmental initiative of the European port sector, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To give you more insight in this initiative, we will publish a series of interviews.
Your port was one of the first ports to join the EcoPorts Network. Why did you find it important to join the Network? Did this help you to create a better relationship between the port and the city?
The Port of Thessaloniki is a mid-size commodity port engaged in diverse trades, in terms of its major commercial activities, mainly cargo handling. However, these activities often gave rise to environmental issues such as air quality and port area seawater pollution. The decision to join the EcoPorts Network in 2003 was a strategic move towards the type of development and future that the Port Authority has been envisioning, which is a sustainable one. Since then, sustainability and environmental protection have been integrated into the everyday organisation of the port’s activities and this is a high priority of the Thessaloniki Port Authority.
Furthermore and most importantly, networking plays a major role in reaching sustainable development goals. Within the EcoPorts Network, exchange of knowledge and best practices between ports is facilitated, while improvement of environmental performance is a common goal. After all it is better to work on solutions and the future of ports in the context of a bigger “family”.
The city of Thessaloniki defines itself as a port city with the port playing a major role in the city’s identity. By joining the EcoPorts Network, the relationship with the city became more transparent but also closer since it provided a common ground to identify the main environmental pressures arising from port operation. It also helped to recognise the significance of the environmental impacts and to find solutions to eliminate them.
Your port was also one of the first EcoPorts ports to receive a PERS certification. How did this help you in improving your environmental performance?
With the PERS certification, the Port of Thessaloniki significantly improved its environmental performance. In collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Port Authority completed successfully the Self Diagnosis Method and was accredited with the PERS certification from 2003 till 2014. This helped a) to evaluate and integrate environmental considerations of sustainable development into the port’s planning and decision-making processes, b) to identify environmental pressures and to clearly express the motivation to tackle them, but also to find available solutions for the identified problems. It has been rather helpful to set up a step-by-step procedure for achieving short and long-term targets by monitoring their implementation, effectiveness and the related costs. This whole process changed the way the port functions.
Can you briefly tell us about your current environmental policy and how it has changed since you became an EcoPorts port?
Since October 2015, the Port of Thessaloniki has been implementing an Environmental Management System for all the port operations accredited according to the ISO 14001:2004 international standard. Being a member of EcoPorts and receiving the PERS certification were very important steps to acquire the ISO 14001:2004 certification and helped the port to recognise the main environmental aspects and impacts as well as to set environmental objectives and targets.
The current port environmental policy includes the commitment to prevent pollution from any source, to monitor and minimise adverse environmental impacts and most importantly to raise awareness of environmental management with both the business partners as well as visitors and passengers passing through the port. Consequently, the environmental policy includes commitments to comply with the latest national and European legislation related to port operations.
In order to meet its commitments, Thessaloniki Port Authority has set appropriate environmental programmes and indicators to improve environmental performance, reduce negative effects and increase the positive impact from its activities.
What are your plans for the future regarding the environment?
Thessaloniki Port Authority has implemented and approved a Master Plan for the years 2016-2040, which reflects the strategic targets and the selected works that will upgrade the port facilities in order to be able to handle more cargo from bigger ships in a sustainable way. According to the Master Plan, specific works are going to be carried out in order to improve the bulk cargo handling such as the construction of enclosed depos, the installation of import/export belt conveyors as well as new state-of-the-art cranes designed for bulk cargo handling. These works will drastically decrease and eliminate any dust particle air pollution emitted, therefore improving the environmental performance of the port.
Furthermore, the gradual reduction of the ecological footprint of the port operations and infrastructure, the reduction of energy consumption per cargo unit as well as the reduction of related carbon emissions are among the first priorities of the Port’s environmental plans.