Ports remain devoted to sustainability investments despite COVID-19

The coronavirus crisis has not hindered ports’ investments in environmental sustainability, a new survey found.

The latest International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) – World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) Port Economic Impact Barometer report, authored by Professors Theo Notteboom and Thanos Pallis from the COVID19 Taskforce, revealed a positive picture regarding the commitment of ports to advance their sustainability investment plans.

As informed, 45% of the surveyed ports reported that there have been no delays and planned investments in environmental sustainability projects are executed as had been foreseen.

A further 32% reported that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, delays in such investment have occurred but, at least for the moment, they are only minor.

Source: IAPH

Even though conditions are challenging, and as a result the percentage of the ports reporting that investments have incurred major delays is not insignificant (15%), only a few ports (2%) have decided to shelve or cancel existing investment plans. Rather than this, some ports (4%) have already decided to accelerate and execute such investments faster than initially scheduled while some others (2%) that have decided to proceed with additional investments.

“Evidently, the industry is standing devoted to advancing its sustainability even in conditions of crisis,” the report concluded.

“The results on this particular question echo the views taken by some of the ports of our COVID19 Task Force, namely that a long-term integrated approach towards port environmental sustainability is the best way of combating this current crisis as well as future ones,” Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH Managing Director, commented.

“Joined-up initiatives on climate change mitigation, energy transition, and data collaboration in combination with a coherent business continuity plan will reduce risks to ports’ businesses and enhance resilience.”

COVID-19 impacts

The report also points towards momentary stabilisation in the four main areas of operations ports have been updating during the pandemic since early April.

Almost without exception, figures are holding steady at low levels for responding ports in terms of hinterland transport delays, high warehouse and storage capacity utilization and shortages of port-related workers.

“It is noticeable for the first time that delays for trucks at both gate and for cross border trade, inland barge operations and rail services have all fallen back to single digits,” Notteboom commented.

“The number of ports reporting less container and cargo vessel calls compared to normal are, for the moment, holding steady at 35 and 40% respectively.”

The cruise and passenger remains the most impacted sector, with 51% of respondents in week 41 indicating that passenger vessel calls are down more than 50%, in many cases even down more than 90%. Since late August, only a few cruise operators have resumed some cruise activity, albeit on a very small scale compared to normal activity levels. For some ports, this implies that cruise ship calls will no longer remain at almost zero levels.

For passenger ferry services, co-author Pallis explained: “The picture remains mixed with many ferry calls almost back to normal schedules but with fewer passengers onboard. Some ports testified that even though passenger vessel calls are at reasonably decent levels, the number of passengers is as low as minus seventy to minus eighty percent.”

Founded in 1955, IAPH is a non-profit-making global alliance of 170 ports and 140 port-related organisations covering 90 countries. In 2018, IAPH established WPSP. Guided by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to unite sustainability efforts of ports worldwide, encouraging international cooperation between all partners involved in the maritime supply chain. 

IAPH joins IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project

On 15 October 2020, IAPH joined the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project as a strategic partner.

The GreenVoyage2050 Project is a partnership project between the Government of Norway and IMO aiming to transform the shipping industry towards a lower carbon future. It aims to support developing countries to meet their commitment towards relevant climate change and energy efficiency goals as specified in the IMO’s initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

As disclosed, IAPH’s Technical Committees of port member experts will work alongside fellow GreenVoyage2050 partners on concrete deliverables that include the creation of workshop packages on sustainable ports and onshore power supply between now and the end of 2021.

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