Belgium: Port of Antwerp Presents First Sustainability Report

 Port of Antwerp Presents First Sustainability Report

The first Sustainability Report for the port of Antwerp has now appeared. For a whole year, various workgroups laboured at the production of this report that demonstrates how the various companies within the port are able to reconcile “people, planet and profit” with their day-to-day activities.

The initiative-takers behind the report are Antwerp Port Authority and the Left Bank Development Corporation in the public sector, and Alfaport Antwerp representing the private sector.

Sustainability leader

The port of Antwerp aims to position itself as the sustainability leader in the Hamburg – Le Havre range. While in the 20th century the emphasis of port policy was firmly on economic development, in the 21st century greater importance will be placed on social concerns that impact the port’s activities. For example, environmental management will be given a more prominent role, and stakeholder management will be further developed. Finally, significant efforts will be devoted to making hinterland transport more time-efficient as well as reducing its environmental footprint. In this respect the port of Antwerp has a decisive advantage thanks to its geographical location deep inland, as this reduces transport costs while limiting the environmental effects of transport.

The nine stages of the report

The Sustainability Report follows the route that goods take in reaching their destinations all over the world via the port of Antwerp:

1. The port of Antwerp as gateway to Europe. Antwerp is not only a multi-capable port, it is also a secure port, where moreover vessels can hand over their waste for safe disposal free of charge (for barges) or at a modest fee (for seagoing ships). The arrangements for disposal of ship’s waste in Antwerp serve as an example of “best practice” for other European ports.

2. Engine of the economy and employment. The port of Antwerp provides work directly or indirectly for some 145,000 people, or 7% of the working population of Flanders. It employs more men than women.

3. A port that invests. The port of Antwerp invests not only in infrastructure and superstructure in order to maintain its leading European position, it also invests in sustainable energy, R&D and people. The number of hours devoted to training rose until 2008 both in absolute and in relative terms (number of hours per employee). This investment in people is sorely needed, as no fewer than 4,000 vacancies will have to be filled by 2013.

4. A productive, healthy port. Labour productivity (added value per employee) in the port of Antwerp is about 50% higher than in the rest of the Belgian economy, and the difference is actually increasing.

5. A port that reconciles economy and ecology. The area devoted to port activities expanded by around 1,000 hectares to 6,416 hectares between 2002 and 2010, equivalent to some 10,000 football fields. Up to 5% of the actual port area or around 600 hectares will be set aside and managed as habitat for plant and animal species that are typical of ports and harbours. Investment will also be made in core areas of nature conservation around the port area.

6. A port for industry and logistics. The industrial and other activities within the port consume energy and water, and produce emissions. Energy consumption rose by 16% during the period 2000-2008, with the biggest consumers being the chemical and refining industries. This increase is partly the result of higher production (up 7%). About 95% of the water consumption is cooling water that is pumped from the docks and the river Scheldt and ultimately returned to them; only minimal use is made of rainwater. Valuable groundwater is seldom used in production processes.

7. A port in harmony with nature and the environment. The port of Antwerp is a “hot spot” for emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxide. To counter this an action plan for particulates and NO2 was introduced in 2008 for the port and the surrounding municipalities, with eight concrete initiatives. This has resulted in a clear and systematic improvement in the values measured. Indeed, no excess PM10 concentrations were observed within the port in 2010.

8. From port to hinterland. The modal split within the port of Antwerp is developing slowly but surely away from road transport, in favour of other, more environment-friendly modes. Road transport now accounts for less than 50% of all freight movements except for containers. And even in the latter case, about one third of all containers now travel by barge. Large quantities of liquid products are transported via the European pipeline hub and the network of pipelines within the port. In fact, 88% of liquid goods moved around by industry within the port go by pipeline.

9. Building up relations with local inhabitants and young people. The I-bus service has been introduced to encourage sustainable transport between home and work. It is now used by 2,900 employees. There is also a shuttle bus that carries some 140 permanent and temporary employees to and from work every day. Sponsorship projects such as the King Baudouin Foundation and the New Belgica also form part of this policy.

Total plan

The Sustainability Report forms part of the “Total Plan for a More Competitive Port” that was launched in 2010 in response to the global financial crisis. To implement the Total Plan it was decided to draw up a joint vision for sustainability, as all the parties involved are keenly aware that sustainability can become the new competitive advantage of the port. Competitive advantage is no longer limited to the economic sphere; increasingly it is being sought in a wider social and indeed international context. This conviction formed the basis for the port’s first Sustainability Report. A key characteristic of sustainability is that it is an ongoing process, one that is never completed. Of course it is essential to define the initial situation and to measure the progress of situations, figures and indicators. This is where the value of the report lies, as it provides a framework, presents the measurements and demonstrates the results.


Dredging Today Staff, February 3, 2012; Image: portofantwerp