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An Enterprising and Ambitious Approach to Sustainability

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Seaports operate on the front line of climate change. Through the use of advanced technology, creative problem-solving and strong collaborations with business partners and communities, ports are revolutionizing how to be environmental stewards.

* By Tom Gresham *

Seaports operate on the front line of climate change. Consequently, the port industry has proved ambitious in its attempts to take a leadership role on critical sustainability issues, often exceeding expectations and regulations while pushing for impactful and innovative new ways of operating. Through the use of advanced technology, creative problem-solving and strong collaborations with business partners and communities, ports are revolutionizing how to be environmental stewards.

“There’s a lot of appetite within the industry to do more and more,” said Christine Rigby, emissions specialist for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Ports have an important role to play in encouraging and facilitating early adoption and accelerated action, and I think you’re seeing them play it.”

Robert Peek, director of marketing and general manager of business development for JAXPORT in Jacksonville, Fla., said the appeal of an ambitious approach to sustainability is evident.

“Beyond the fundamental desire to be good stewards of our natural resources and the potential for cost savings, JAXPORT recognizes that globally there is a growing interest by individuals and companies to partner with businesses which are greening their supply chain,” Peek said. “In short, it is good for the environment and it is good business.”

The burning of diesel fuel is a clearcut place for ports to strive to lower emissions. Mike Zampa, communications director for the Port of Oakland, said the port’s shorepower program has made a major impact on emissions during the past 10 years. Through the program, approximately 75% of ships calling at Oakland plug into the landslide power grid at berth and shut down diesel auxiliary generators.

“This has helped reduce ship emissions by nearly 80% over the last decade,” Zampa said.

The shorepower program for the Port of Vancouver (B.C.) has been in place since 2009 and helped eliminate nearly 21,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, Rigby said.

“We’re fortunate here in British Columbia that most of our electricity comes from low-emission hydroelectric sources,” Rigby said. “That means that anytime a vessel can shut down its engines and switch from diesel fuel to the grid, we see significant net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as well as air quality contamination.”

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