World’s Ports Commit to Sustainable Growth and Development

Nearly 1,000 ports and port-related companies committed themselves in Antwerp to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations.

On March 22, a two-day event held under the auspices of the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) was opened in Antwerp.

Specifically, ports and companies intend to focus on five practical areas including the development of robust infrastructure; climate & energy with the emphasis on initiatives that contribute to achieving the objective of the Paris climate agreement; societal integration; safety and security including cybersecurity; and transparent, ethical policies and management.

“Ports all over the world are aiming for a future built around sustainable economic models,” Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority and also the host and keynote speaker at the event, pointed out.

“This transition process includes the elements that will help us to respond not only to the global but also the local challenges currently facing us, such as climate change, mobility, digitalisation, migration and societal integration,” he added.

The commitments made by the international port community are recorded in the Charter of the World Ports Sustainability Program, signed on March 22 by the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), the Worldwide Network of Port Cities (AIVP), the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) and the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH). They, together with Antwerp Port Authority, took the initiative to set up the WPSP.

Together, these organizations represent nearly 1,000 ports and port-related companies and bodies from more than 100 countries around the world.

In 2008, the World Ports Climate Initiative was launched. On that occasion, 55 major international ports committed themselves to measures for tackling climate change.

“This resulted in among other things practical initiatives such as the Environmental Ship Index, onshore power for seagoing ships and LNG as a bunkering fuel,” Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH managing director and WPSP coordinator, explained.

Whereas ten years earlier the focus was mainly on the climate, the area of concern has now been broadened to include socially responsible enterprise.

“World ports too face the dilemma of reconciling sustainable development with further industrial challenges. It was therefore necessary for the WPCI to develop into the WPSP, an international programme that will make a practical contribution towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations,” Verhoeven concluded.