Ports Going Green

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Just as many cities in Latin America and the Caribbean are striving to become more sustainable, so are many ports. That seems only appropriate, since ports are often big enough and busy enough that they could almost be considered cities unto themselves. The Inter-American Committee on Ports encourages sustainable practices in the industry, and every year it recognizes some of the region’s standout environmental performers. The recently announced winners of the 2017 Maritime Award of the Americas have all taken steps to become greener—and, by extension, more competitive.

Ports around the world are acting on several fronts to mitigate their environmental impact, for example by reducing air and water pollution, using energy more efficiently, introducing renewable sources of energy, and managing wastewater responsibly. This is not just the right thing to do, but it sets them apart, according to Jorge Durán, Secretary of the Inter-American Committee on Ports (known by its Spanish acronym, CIP).

“The greener they are, the more competitive,” Durán said. Ports with international environmental certifications tend to attract both more cruise ships and more cargo ships, he explained, as shipping companies seek to reduce their own carbon footprints.

European ports have been at the forefront of this trend, but in recent years more ports in Latin America and the Caribbean have been investing in infrastructure upgrades and implementing environmentally responsible processes and services. Several have been certified under the Port Environmental Review System (PERS) established by EcoPorts, an environmental initiative of the European port sector. Ports and terminals outside Europe are now eligible to obtain this green credential, which is assessed by Lloyd’s Register.

Santa Marta, Colombia, was the first port in the Americas to earn the EcoPort recognition; it has since been followed by four ports in Mexico (Ensenada, Lázaro Cárdenas, Puerto Vallarta, and Dos Bocas), as well as the port of Ventanas in Chile.

Héctor Bautista Mejía, Director General of the Ensenada Port Authority—a previous winner of the Maritime Award of the Americas—described some of the many steps Ensenada has taken to become greener in recent years; these range from improving the port’s emissions to installing LED lights to spearheading efforts to clean up local beaches. “A Green Port is one that carries out its port activities causing minimum damage to the environment and to society, taking measures to improve and control air and water quality, noise, and waste,” he said.

The EcoPorts certification, which the port obtained in 2015, has helped bring tourism and investment to Ensenada, Bautista said, noting that the port is now part of an “environmental logistics chain of companies that invest and do business only with ports that are committed to taking care of the environment.” He said this commitment to the environment extends to Mexico’s entire national port sector, which aims for a 25 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Maritime Award of the Americas

By recognizing good practices throughout the region, the Inter-American Committee on Ports hopes to encourage ports and port operators to keep taking steps to become more environmentally sustainable. Part of the Organization of American States (OAS), the CIP brings together national port authorities from OAS member countries—with the active participation and cooperation of the private sector—to strengthen cooperation on port sector development.

In mid-February, the CIP Secretariat announced the winners for the 2017 Maritime Award of the Americas. CIP Secretary Jorge Durán noted that this year’s edition of the award was particularly competitive, with many qualified candidates—a reflection of the growing interest in sustainable practices in the port industry. Here are the winners in each category:

Environmental Waste Management: The winner in this group—Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana—operates a deep-water port in Honduras, located in Puerto Cortés, just north of San Pedro Sula. The company was recognized for several improvements, such as implementing a “3R” program (reduce, reuse, recycle), reducing emissions, and installing solar panels, a water purification system, and a rainwater collection system.

Green Operations in Ports and/or Terminals: Chile’s Puerto Ventanas S.A. is modernizing its installations and infrastructure, including facilities to store and load copper concentrate, and is implementing an energy efficiency plan. Located about two-thirds of the way up Chile’s long coastline, it is one of six Latin American ports that has earned the EcoPort certification.

Public Outreach and Environmental Awareness: Pluspetrol was recognized for its efforts to monitor marine life and environmental conditions in and around Peru’s Paracas Bay and a nearby protected area of islands and islets (Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras). The company has developed an app that allows people to follow the results of its monitoring activities. Peru’s National Port Authority also won an honorable mention in this category.

Disaster Mitigation and Management in Ports and/or Terminals:
The Prefectura Naval Argentina, which protects the country’s rivers and maritime areas, was recognized in this category for setting up a nationwide system of 19 stations to provide rapid response to accidents that involve fires, oil spills, chemical leaks, or other problems on ships or in ports. This system would act as first responder in such cases.

The CIP also gives out an award for Outstanding Women in the Maritime and Port Sectors, and this year it had two winners: Lludelis Espinal, an attorney and President of E&M International Consulting S.R.L., in the Dominican Republic; and Guimara Tuñón, Director General of Ports and Maritime Industries at the Panama Maritime Authority.

The Jury Committee that selected the winners was made up of representatives of the CIP Secretariat, the North American Marine Environmental Protection Association, the Latin American Society of Marine Oil Terminal Operators and Single-Buoy Mooring, and the OAS Department of Sustainable Development. The OAS Inter-American Commission of Women also participated in judging the award for Outstanding Women.

The winners will be honored at the II Hemispheric Seminar on Corporate Social Responsibility and Gender Equality, which will take place May 23-28 in Lima, Peru.