Port industry should be optimistic about its future

How ports tackle green recovery in the post-Covid world will be crucial to their future success.

This was the topic up for discussion at ESPO’s Conference Regatta 2021 which kicked off this week at the Port of Valencia.

“Achieving decarbonization is a balance between securing competitiveness and providing tools and incentives for transformation,” said Annaleena Mäkilä, ESPO Chair and CEO of the Finnish Port Association.

Way forward

Ms Mäkilä went on to say that in every crisis there is the opportunity for something new to emerge.

Positives so far have taken the shape of smoothing the passage of cargo and embracing new efficiencies in to do business, including the digital transition.

There are other positives too.

Although Dr Bart Kuipers, Erasmus Centre for Urban, Port and Transport Economics, warned of the strong hiccup that the deep sea container market will feel until 2022, some other sectors are booming.

“The opportunities for small ports may be intra-European growth by shortsea and a relative slow growth/decline of deepsea-transport. This will not happen immediately but will be a process that will go on for decades,” he told GreenPort.

“Countries in Eastern-Europe and North-Africa are very well suited for near-sourcing of production at low costs, relatively close to markets. Logistics service providers may enable this by developing intermodal solutions, using rail and inland shipping of intra-European flows instead of road transport to and from seaports.”

Globalisation continues to slow causing a move to shorter, more transparent supply chains, regionalisation and better use of shortsea shipping, aided by the pandemic.

Small ports may be able to find their own niches in the market by selling the benefits of cost-effectiveness and reduced emissions on these shorter more direct routes.

Indra Vonck, Deloitte Port Center of Excellence, said the Deloitte-ESPO study on the future role of ports looks at the shift taking place from ports being seen as cash cows and polluters to green employers and generators of value.

The report promises to share some valuable insight on how ports need to pick and choose which digital solutions to pursue in future.

There will also be insight into how port cooperation and the port city relationship will be crucial in the greening of transport, industry and energy generation going forward.

Adina Valean, European Commissioner for Transport talked about the ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package launching on 14 July.

It will review the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure at ports, eg onshore power supply, which will have implications on how ports tackle the issue of supply and demand in future.

The view of the panel summed up with a good take-home from Zeno D’Agostino, ESPO Vice-Chair and President, Port Network Authority Eastern Adriatic.

He said that for the ports industry in future it will be “less just in time and more just in case.”

There will be a different roadmap on how to do business but there is every reason to be optimistic as there will be plenty of opportunities to embrace.

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