To promote the efforts made by different European ports to enhance the city port relations through innovative projects, ESPO decided in 2009 to give out an annual ESPO award on Social Integration of Ports. After the two first editions, it was decided to focus each year on one different aspect of social integration. 

The themes addressed so far are: Creative Strategies to Communicate the Port to the Wider Public (2011), Youth (2012), Heritage (2013), Innovative Environmental Projects (2014), Relationship with Schools and Universities (2015), Nature in Ports (2016), Art and Cultural involvement of the port (2017), Ports as a good work environment for everyone (2018), Transparency and the role of social media in reaching out to the local community (2019), Enhancing the port-city relationship by encouraging innovators and local start-ups to be part of the port ecosystem (2020) and Role of ports in the recovery of the city and the local community (2021).

The ESPO Award on Social Integration of Ports is entering its 15th edition, with the theme “Nature restoration projects in ports benefitting the local community”.

Since ports are often located in or near different precious natural areas, they strive to integrate the protection of biodiversity in all port operations, making it part of their license to operate. Over the years, ports in Europe have gained extensive experience with sustainable port operations and development. These sustainability efforts in ports are based on respecting and working with nature and habitat requirements already set out in European and national legislation, whilst striving to go beyond regulatory requirements. 

Already in 1996, ESPO published a comprehensive Code of practice on the application and the Bird and Habitats Directive. The Code was developed in close cooperation with the European Commission, and sets out specific guidelines for how ports can work with the Birds and Habitats Directive. 

On top of their traditional role as hub in the supply chain ensuring connectivity and linking Europe with the rest of the world, Europe’s ports are nowadays playing an increasingly important role as suppliers, producers, storing locations or importers of new renewable energies. Ports are at the service of Europe’s economy and society and an essential partner in the race to a net-zero and sustainable European economy and society. 

Given all these new roles and responsibilities, it is more important than ever for ports to find ways to ensure that port development and activities, in particular those linked to achieving the net-zero goals and related energy policies, go hand in hand with the protection and enhancement of natural areas in and around ports.

On 7 November, North Sea Port won the ESPO Award 2023 in recognition of its role in restoring nature in and around the port area to the benefit of the citizens and local community. The ESPO Award was handed out by Magda Kopczynska, Director General of DG MOVE in the European Commission, during a specially festive edition which also marked the 30th anniversary of ESPO. The dinner and ceremony took place at the Art and History Museum in the Cinquantenaire in Brussels, and gathered more than 180 guests.


  • 2009 Port of Gijón (Spain) | Gijón Port & City Together 
    Special mentions: port of Genoa (Italy) Genoa Port Center –Breaking Down the “Social Distancing” of the Port.  Port of Ghent (Belgium) Project Ghent Canal Zone -Working Together on the Sustainable Development of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal Zone
  • 2010 Port of Helsinki (Finland) | Port as Part of the City
  • 2011 Ports of Stockholm (Sweden) | Hamnvision 2015 (Portvision 2015)
  • 2012 Port of Genoa (Italy) | Citizens of the Port – Knowing and Living the Port of Genoa
  • 2013 Port of Antwerp (Belgium) | Heritage: The Breadcrumb Trail between City and Port
  • 2014 Port of Koper | No waste, just ressources
  • 2015 Port of Dublin (Ireland) | Port Communities Educational Support Programme 
    Special mention for Port of Guadeloupe Discovering my port
  • 2016 bremenports (Germany) LUNEPLATE 
  • 2017 Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes (France) | Port’Art  
  • 2018 Port of Rotterdam Authority (The Netherlands) | The Port of Rotterdam creates a good working environment for everyone
  • 2019 Port of Dover (United Kingdom)Transparen-SEA (Socially Engaged Accountability)
  • 2020 Algeciras Port Authority (Spain) | The Journey of Innovation - Traversía de la Innovación
  • 2021 Port of Gdańsk Authority | WE ARE – unification of local community of Gdańsk’s districts Nowy Port and Stogi with its old neighbour, the sea port
  • 2022 Port of Barcelona Authority | Your Port opens up again!
  • 2023 North Sea Port |Connecting nature in Ports and residential areas – Ghent Canal Zone and Moervaart Valley

ESPO Award Brochure 2023 Pictures ESPO Award Ceremony 2023 Winner 2023 Booklets with previous submitted projects


Every year, one of ESPO’s member ports hosts the annual conference. Following 16 successful editions, ESPO’s annual conference has become a meeting point for European port industry and transport policy makers. The conference features very high quality speakers, allows for open debates on topics that are high on the ports’ agenda and includes multiple networking events in beautiful settings. It is a unique opportunity for industry, stakeholders and European political scene to meet, discuss and learn from each other.

The 19th edition of the ESPO Conference took place on 1-2 June 2023 in Bremen, kindly hosted by bremenports.

The theme of this year's edition was "EUROPE'S PORTS AS PARTNERS IN THE RACE TOWARDS A NET-ZERO FUTURE ". 

The different crises Europe has been facing over the last few years are turning our economy and society upside down, without precedent. On top of the climate crisis, the new geopolitical context triggered by the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the connected energy crisis as well as the inflation and the crunch on the labor market are major headwinds, which directly affect Europe’s ports. Being at the crossroads of supply chains, hubs of energy, cluster of industries and nodes of connectivity and cohesion, ports in Europe are in the middle of this turbulent economic, energy and geopolitical landscape. It is not anymore just the economy, it is energy that rules the waves.

Whereas the way forward might differ from port to port, all ports in Europe want to contribute and be a partner in building a sustainable, resilient and competitive net-zero future for Europe. 

But how to plan and prepare for the future when the tectonic plates are moving constantly? Seneca said: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. So, it is time to sit together and try to define the story of the future. 

These are some of the questions addressed at the ESPO Conference. As usual, the Conference featured a series of top speakers and experts, but also offered an excellent platform for discussions and exchanges between port professionals, port stakeholders, academics, and EU policy makers.

Pictures and speakers' presentations of previous editions Speakers' presentations 2023 Pictures 2023