Portugal has been a seafaring nation for many centuries. Still today, the sea plays an important role in the lives of ordinary people as well as in the economy of the country. This month we will take you on a trip to the Ports of Sines and the Algarve Authority (or APS, S.A.), which is the entity with the role to ensure the exercising of competences needed for the smooth operation of the port of Sines and the commercial ports of Faro and Portimão. These ports are situated on the very South-Western edge of Europe, each having their own peculiarities.
ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Ports of Sines and the Algarve? What are their main characteristics and challenges?
APS: The Port of Sines is the country’s leading port in terms of cargo handling, representing 46% of the total cargo handled in the country and 50% of the containerised cargo. It is the country’s deep water port, offering five specialised terminals for the operation of any type of vessel and cargo, with no restrictions. Directly linked to a large industrial and logistic area, with 2.200ha available for the settlement of companies of any type of business (and an expansion capacity up to 4.200ha), Sines is a paperless port, operating round the clock, all year round, in flat rate. Free from urban constraints, the port offers expansion capacity in its five terminals.
The Port of Faro is a small port serving the Algarve region. It is important for the handling of regional products such as carob, rock-salt and cement (from the cement plant of Loulé).
The Port of Portimão is comprised of a Cruise Terminal, especially endowed for the Mediterranean Routes.
ESPO: The Port of Sines is an important player for Portugal’s energy supply. Energy is high on the EU political agenda. Is the Port of Sines developing a strategy to respond to the new challenges in the field of energy, such as an alternative energy mix, energy efficiency and energy independence?
APS: The Port of Sines is able to give a proper response as regards the country’s energetic supply. Sines is the leading supplier of gasoline and diesel, receiving the raw material (crude) and pumping it through a pipeline to the Sines’ Refinery which then gives back the final products to supply the country (and to export to the foreign market). Sines also offers a Multipurpose Terminal handling coal. This coal supplies the two thermoelectric power plants in Portugal. One is located in Sines and is directly linked to the terminal by a conveyor belt, while the second power plant is supplied by train (also directly from the terminal and along the national rail network) and located nearly 270km away from the port. Finally, Sines’ LNG Terminal is responsible for 50% of the total amount of LNG consumed in the country and is connected to the national gas grid, thus performing direct supply to the whole country.
ESPO: How does your port estimate the future potential of LNG? Is the port involved in any projects related to LNG?
APS: As previously mentioned, Sines offers a LNG Terminal, operational since January 2004. The terminal offers -15m H.Z, having no restrictions for the operation of large vessels. The LNG is received and stored inside the terminal and a degasification station pumps the LNG into the national gas grid. Sines supplies 50% of the national consuming needs, and this percentage is intended to grow in the future. The company awarded the concession is not directly taking part in any project, even though it is closely accompanying all initiatives developed within this scope, such as the fuel supply to LNG vessels.
ESPO: The Port of Sines is an important cargo port in the region. How is the business evolving? What are the main challenges?
APS: Sines is the leading port in Portugal when it comes to cargo handling, representing 46% of the total maritime cargo handled in the country. As regards containerised cargo, Sines’ share in the national port sector is 50%. The port is also the leading national port for export cargo. Being a deep water port with excellent natural characteristics, no urban constraints and expansion capacity in all its five terminals, Sines is a paperless port which has been achieving a high increasing rate, especially as regards containerised cargo. Today, Sines is the 97th container terminal in the world, the 20th in Europe and the 4th in the Iberian Peninsula. The port’s main challenges lie in containerised cargo, namely in the increase of capacity for containers and the rail connection to the hinterland. Being part of the Trans-European Transport Network as priority project, the improvement of the rail connection Sines – Elvas – Madrid is due to be completed in 2020 and will highly contribute to the enhancement of the hinterland market.
ESPO: Situated in the beautiful Algarve region, the Port of Portimão is well known as an attractive cruise destination. Do you foresee a bright future for the cruise sector in your region and your port?
APS: Portimão is a cruise port which is strategically located for the Mediterranean routes. We expect this business segment to grow in the near future and we are working on studies and projects, aiming at enhancing the port’s operational conditions for the reception of bigger vessels.
ESPO: What are the main investment projects for the upcoming years? Could you briefly describe the importance of these investment projects for the port and the region?
APS: As mentioned previously, we need more capacity for containers to serve the demand. The rail connection to the Spanish hinterland, which is being developed, is a project of great importance to us, since it will enable us to enhance the traffic to the hinterland. Furthermore, IT systems are always on our agenda. Sines is already operating the Logistic Single Window, a platform allowing the trace and tracking of the cargo from the terminal and along the transport by road and rail.
ESPO: Situated at the very South-Western corner of Europe, the port of Sines has a position which enables it to have a clear view on Atlantic shipping routes. Currently, the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is set to be complete in 2016, regularly makes the headlines. Will the expansion of the Panama Canal have an impact on your port?
APS: We believe it will have some impact in the future, even though these expected changes will happen really slowly. Sines is already offering three regular services (containers) through the Panama Canal. However, after the expansion works the canal will only be able to give access to vessels up to 12.500TEU. Sines is capable of receiving the biggest vessels (above 14.000TEU). Therefore, we can say that Sines is not depending on the enlargement of the Panama Canal to increase/develop its traffic volumes.
ESPO: Could you briefly describe the environmental management in your port?
APS: Safety and environmental issues are always on top of the agenda in the Port of Sines. APS is awarded the certification of Quality, Environment and Safety Integrated System by Lloyd’s List Register, which according to international standards is ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.
Sines is equipped with a private Fire Fighting Department duly prepared to act in fire and pollution incidents/accidents, thanks to the state-of-the-art safety equipment and specialised human resources.
ESPO: The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21), taking place between 30 November and 11 December 2015, will explore the possibilities to take further action on climate. Transport will of course be tackled on this conference. In view of this conference, what do you think could be the role of ports in taking further action on climate?
APS: Ports, as every other company, can and must contribute. Sines is fully committed to environmental issues and works everyday to be a more environmental friendly port. APS has recently finished the construction of a cold storage warehouse which was designed to be autonomous energetically. It is completely covered by solar panels, while the cold to be consumed in the storage will be obtained from the degasification process of the LNG inside our terminal.
ESPO: What initiatives are the Ports of Sines and Algarve taking towards digitalisation?
APS: Sines is a paperless port and was one of the country’s pioneers in the implementation of the Port Single Window. Since two years, the port has been operating the Logistic Single Window, an upgrade of the Port Single Window, allowing the tracing and tracking of the cargo along the land– by road and rail.
ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, a FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is your approach for measuring the port’s performance?
APS: APS has been taking part in the PORTOPIA project, giving an important contribution in the contents of this initiative’s deliverables. We believe that statistical information should be more harmonised, as well as the indicators concerning the social impact of ports in their area of influence. We hope PORTOPIA can provide important and concrete steps on these issues.