Press Release

ESPO Conference 2017 inspires European ports on their way to decarbonisation

06 June 2017

On 1 and 2 June, the European port industry gathered in Barcelona for ESPO’s annual conference entitled “Ports in a changing Climate, a Changing world”.

During the first conference day, Alvaro Rodriguez, high level Climate Reality representative, inspired the audience with an eye opening presentation on the impacts of climate change and a positive message showing that solutions, the new zero-carbon technologies, are within reach. His opening was followed by contributions and sharing of best practices of different stakeholders. These debates highlighted that ports are technology takers and require new technology to be available to make their contribution to decarbonisation.

The end of Day One marked the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Ecoports network, which clearly showed that ports’ pro-active engagement towards sustainability is well established and withstanding the test of time.

On Friday, the key note speeches of OECD/ITF’s port expert Olaf Merk and Professor Jonathan Holslag gave more than enough food for thought for a lively debate with different port executives on the current geo-political and world trade challenges and the strategic role of ports. During this debate, ports clearly highlighted that it is at all times important to maintain control over the strategic aspects of a port (in particular ownership of the land). Ports, however, do not wish to see any legislative intervention to limit investments in their ports.

European Commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, set the scene of the final conference roundtable by highlighting the Commission’s priorities for the maritime year: competitiveness, digitalisation and decarbonisation. She launched the European Ports Forum as a place to advise the Commission and to define and start joint initiatives. This was followed by a debate between Commissioner Bulc and MEP Knut Fleckenstein and different port executives on EU policy for ports, the need for investments in ports, on the role of a port authority and on the on-going mergers between European ports.

This conference clearly showed that ports are willing and able to significantly contribute to decarbonisation as and when new technologies make this possible. We very much appreciated the presence of the Commission at the highest level.  It shows the openness of the European institutions to listen to the voice of the ports. We welcome the establishment of the European Ports Forum. We hope that ESPO, representing all European port authorities in their diversity, will be strongly represented in this forum.” says ESPO’s Chairman Eamonn O’Reilly.

 “I would like to thank the Port of Barcelona, all speakers and the participants for making this year’s conference so  successful. This conference has shown that ESPO and its members are ready and open to discuss in public the most challenging issues including climate change, deglobalisation and China’s connectivity policy. This gives us already a lot of appetite for preparing next year’s edition”, says ESPO’s secretary general Isabelle Ryckbost.

 The speakers’ presentations are available at: and the conference pictures are available here.

The ESPO Conference 2018 will take place on 31 May and 1 June and will be hosted by the Port of Rotterdam.

The ESPO conference 2017 in quotes: 

"Technology is not an end in itself but a means to address real needs of people and environment." Mrs Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport.

“The best thing of port regulation is one-size-fits-all approach is non-sense.” Mr Knut Fleckenstein, Member of European Parliament.

"Ports can set incentives for greening the maritime fleet through their port charges" Mrs Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport.

 Commissioner Bulc on US decision on Paris Agreement: "It's an opportunity for other players to strengthen their position and take the lead."

 “Make trade great again. Essential to preserve internal market and keep openness.” Ramon Tremosa, Member of European Parliament.

 “Ports should remain a strategic asset of a society.” Jonathan Holslag, Professor at Free University of Brussels.

 “The trends are resilient trade vs growing polarisation and militarisation in different regions.” Jonathan Holslag, Professor at Free University of Brussels.

 “Ports are strategic assets for stronger, fair and smarter Europe.” Olaf Merk, Ports and shipping expert of the International Transport Forum at the OECD

 "Ports are a powerful geopolitical tool and catalyst for climate change mitigation.” Olaf Merk, Ports and shipping expert of the International Transport Forum at the OECD

 “Alternative use of decommissioned oil/gas platforms for off shore wind power supply may be considered.” Dr Ewald Breunesse, Manager Energy Transition, Shell

 “EIB to steer financing to activities having the highest potential in carbon savings.” Tom Scheltjens, Projects Directorate, European Investment Bank

 “Growing population and increasing assets and infrastructure on coastlines.” Prof Nicholls, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

 "Lack of global action would lead in patchwork of regional measures" Heidi Hiltunen, DG CLIMA

 "Shipping is not exempt from Paris Agreement and needs to shift to low carbon fuels and renewable sources" Heidi Hiltunen, DG CLIMA.

"Carbon Capture and Storage may be a niche business for EU ports." Clemens Schneider, Wuppertal Institute.

"Increase of capacity utilisation through transport modes collaboration reduces emissions and increases profits" Sergio Barbarino, Research Fellow of Procter & Gambl Research & Development organization and Chairman of ALICE, the EU Innovation Platform for Logistic

"Speed has the highest impact in fuel consumption; voyage planning and itinerary critical up to 15-20% in fuel consumption" Dario Bocchetti, Grimaldi.

"Shipping the most efficient transport mode: emissions per tonne cargo tremendously down" Dario Bocchetti, Grimaldi

"Investing in renewables is not a question of ideology but economy." A. Rodriguez The Climate Reality Project

"We are risking to lose some cities below the water because of climate change" A. Rodriguez, The Climate Reality Project

"Hottest year ever recorded was 2016, this is gonna change next year" Alvaro Rodriguez- the Climate Reality project.

 “We need to do more perhaps to explore and capitalise on our assets - expertise, education and innovation. In one word quality.” Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of DG MOVE

"Ports live the multimodal challenge on a daily basis, as the gateway for deep sea, SSS, and hinterland connections" Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of DG MOVE

"Ports are the ones that make this machine run, creating employment and business opportunities" Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of DG MOVE

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