20 years EcoPorts: Interview with the Port of Vigo
EcoPorts, the main environmental initiative of the European port sector, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To give you more insight in this initiative, we will publish a series of interviews. This time, we interviewed Carlos Botana Lagarón, Head of the Sustainability Department of the Port Authority of Vigo.
Your port has been member of the EcoPorts Network since 2013. Why did you find it important to join the Network? Did this help you to create a better relationship between the port and the city?
The Port of Vigo had already obtained the international environmental certifications ISO 14001 and EMAS before joining EcoPorts, but we believed that it was very important to become a member of this network and to have the PERS certificate.
There are many reasons for this decision, the most important was to become a member of a network that shares a lot of knowledge of best environmental practices, which are reflected in the ESPO good practice guide and its annexes.
On the other hand, we are ever more aware of the importance that end customers and shipping companies, especially cruisers, place on environment; actually, many shipping companies want their destination ports to be part of this network because of its objectives. This is verified because they check the members on the website of EcoPorts.
For some years, one of the objectives of the Port of Vigo has been to be a Green Port, and this has greatly improved the relationship with the city, which has changed from seeing us as a risk to a guarantor of environmental protection and promoter of the economy. To obtain the PERS certificate has been important to reinforce the objective of being a Green Port, which is demonstrated by the good audit reports received.
Recently, you obtained PERS certification for the third time already. How does this help you in improving your environmental performance?
In this last audit, we were able to verify how the questionnaire was updated to the new technologies and the new situations in ports, with specific questions on LNG, OPS (Onshore Power Supply) and climate change. This is of great importance, since it is the only specific certificate for ports, the others being more general. The PERS certificate clearly marks the path to continuous improvement and helps you not to lag behind other ports in environmental performance.
During the audit you can take stock of your environmental performance and identify new goals for the future. It is also important to emphasize the importance that was given in this last audit to the issues of transparency; I believe that the ports have an obligation to be transparent and that with it we manage to improve our image. We must do things well, but if we do not communicate, it has no value for society.
Can you briefly tell us about your current environmental policy and how it has changed since you became an EcoPorts port?
The elaboration of our Green Port Strategy and becoming a member of EcoPorts happened almost at the same time. Before, the environmental policy of the Port of Vigo was more based on immediate solutions to environmental problems that could affect the quality of water, noise or air pollution.
After 2013, the port's environmental policy has been based on strategic issues such as the fight against climate change, the implementation of the LNG, OPS and reducing the carbon footprint. Another important element of our approach is to improve the communication with all interest groups and society in general.
To fix all environmental impacts that had existed before in the port has not been an easy task for the Port of Vigo, withenvironmental impacts originating from different activities such as from the shipyards, the fishing sector, the maritime transport or the city in general. In order to tackle these challenges, the Port of Vigo started to work on two lines: environmental compensation and the recovery of degraded sea beds from past activities using innovative and new approaches and techniques.
What are your plans for the future regarding the environment?
In the last year, the Port of Vigo has started a new, macro-project on implementing the Blue Growth strategy of the European Commission. The main objectives are being an innovative, connected and inclusive Green Port and in the first phase more than 250 persons from the academic, scientific, technological, social and business world have participated.
Within this strategy, we have two main fields of activities identified for the future: on the one hand, the commitment to clean energy and the inclusion of marine renewable energy in the port with the goal of becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Several projects have been submitted so far, integrating other administrations of the Bay of Vigo, such as the National Park of the Islands Cíes, the Free Zone of Vigo (Consorcio Zona Franca de Vigo) and the city itself. The implementation of LNG is a priority in line with the fight against climate change. With respect to this topic, at the moment we are partners of two CEF projects, Core LNG Hive and SamueLNG, which aim to design and develop infrastructures for the supply of gas and electricity to ships. The focus of these projects is on designing and constructing a barge to supply LNG and electricity to the ships of so-called Motorway of the Sea; and with the future objective of supplying gas to the cruisers.
On the other hand, and besides our commitment to clean energy, is the environmental compensation that is very important for us. The Blue Growth Strategy Biotechnology Group is working on issues such as the use of nanotechnology for decontamination of sea beds and the implementation of algae to capture CO2.
Carlos Botana Lagarón