Press Release

Port of the Month: Bilbao (Spain)

01 March 2016

This month, we take you to the Port of Bilbao. It’s a port with more than 700 years of history that has now grown into one of the most important logistics centres on the Atlantic route for European market access. Recently, the Port of Bilbao also came into the news as the ‘Port of Refuge’ for the cargo ship ‘Modern Express’ that came into trouble before the coast. Enjoy this trip to Spain!

ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Bilbao? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

Port of Bilbao: Bilbao is the gateway to the European Atlantic Ocean and the leading port in the region when it comes to trade with the United Kingdom. We are specialised in Short Sea Shipping while at the same time we preserve our transoceanic vocation, we work to optimise our connectivity with the American Continent and in parallel we are developing the Atlantic Corridor where we are one of the main logistics actors. The Port Authority of Bilbao has taken noteworthy steps to reinforce its presence in dry ports and logistics zones. The latest incorporations have been Pancorbo, which already has railway access, and Arasur, which shortly will have railway access. These developments will facilitate intermodal transport.

In 2016, we will take steps towards the building of the Central Piers, which will be the culmination of the exploitation of the basin created in 1998. In this way, our contribution to the region’s economy and employment will continue. The same applies to our commitment to cruise vessel traffic. Finally, we are making efforts in the fields of environment and prevention in order to become a leader port and we are also committed to establishing closer bonds with the society surrounding us.

ESPO: Recently, a cargo ship named ‘Modern Express’ ran into difficulties near the French coast. The ship was granted place of refuge at the Port of Bilbao. How did the port deal with this situation? How did the port cooperate with the authorities?

Port of Bilbao: It was a great challenge for our port and our experts dealing with emergencies because of the difficult conditions of the vessel when arriving in Bilbao. At the end, the complicated manoeuvres for entrance and the mooring of the vessel were successfully completed. In ten days, the vessel was put in even keels and it was ready for repairs. It was a successful exercise of cooperation between port authority, marine authorities, salvage companies, tug companies, pilots and mooring companies. We feel proud of the team of experts who were able to solve the situation with all the guarantees for our port and the environment.

ESPO: The Port of Bilbao also functions as a passenger port, conducting both cruise and ferry operations. How is this business evolving? What are the main challenges?

Port of Bilbao: The cruise business is a growing business in our port. The coming into service of the Port of Bilbao’s third cruise berth coincided with the achievement of a new record both in the number of calls (the arrival of 58 cruise vessels) and the number of tourists on board (80,161 passengers)
The third cruise vessel berth, inaugurated in May 2015, will be completed with the construction of its maritime station which started at the beginning of this year.

Regarding ferry operations, we have three weekly ferry calls by Brittany Ferries, which operates on the Port of Bilbao-Portsmouth route. The ferry, which also carries trucks with and without drivers, takes an average of 24 hours to complete the voyage, which enables truckers to respect compulsory rest periods and passengers to enjoy the comforts of a cruise, without worrying about their vehicles. In 2015 we had 121 ferry calls and moved 94.981 passengers.
ESPO: What are the main investment projects in the Port of Bilbao for the upcoming years?
Port of Bilbao: The main investment project will be the construction of the central pier with an estimated budget of 200Million euro. It will be carried out in two phases:

  1. Phase I of the Central Quay (2015 - 2020) - Quays A5&A6 (1358 m quay length) and the development of an additional 300.000 m² port operations area (general cargo).
  2. Phase II of the Central Quay (2020-2024) - Quay A4 (665 m quay length) and the development of an additional 300.000 m² port operations area (containerised cargo). 
Another important construction project is the extension of the Punta Sollana breakwater-dock. This complex work, which started in 2012 and finished in June 2016, will extend the present breakwater by up to 680 meters and will boost solid and liquid traffic. It has required 41.2 million euro investment and is EU co-financed.

Regarding the enhancement of intermodal connections, there are two actions: the first one is the port-rail logistics terminal (TELOF) Pancorbo and the second one the rail connection and service tracks to Arasur, which is a dry port situated in Alava. The budget for both projects accounts up to 20 million euro.

In the private sector, Bahía de Bizkaia Gas (BBG) has completed the building and bringing into operation of their third liquefied natural gas (LNG) tank, which now offers a total storage capacity of 450,000 m³. Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (CLH) has started the works on 28,300m² of land which the company will occupy on the Port of Bilbao’s Punta Sollana Dock and where their new petroleum products terminal will be installed. Eight new tanks with a 123,000 cubic-meters total capacity will be built in the first stage, while in the second, three further tanks with an extra 114,000 cubic-meter capacity will be set in place.

ESPO: How would you describe the added value of your port to the city and the region?

Port of Bilbao: The Port of Bilbao is one of the main economic drivers for people from the Biscay region. The transport of goods through the port contributes almost 500 million euros to the Gross Domestic Product of the Autonomous Basque Community and provides employment to 10,000 people. Income for the Basque Treasury through VAT, company and income tax adds up to more than 60 million euros.

Even more, the economic impact of the port reaches the neighbouring communities of Cantabria, Castile-Leon, Rioja and Navarre, the South of France and Madrid, whose logistics infrastructures and transport systems work intensely with the Port of Bilbao. The spectacular development in cruise traffic is the Port of Bilbao’s latest contribution to the economy and well-being of its surroundings. It is making decisive contribution to the development of tourism, a new industry with a great trajectory in the Atlantic Arc. More than 90% of cruiser-generated income corresponds to service industries.

ESPO: Bilbao is a core port of the Atlantic Corridor in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). What has been the impact of being a TEN-T core port? Was the port involved in any TEN-T projects?

Port of Bilbao: Yes, definitely. Since 2012, we have been involved in different projects under the TEN-T umbrella. First, the “Iberian-UK Intermodal Corridor”, a Motorway of the Sea project for developing rail connection infrastructure for the dry port in Pancorbo and the integration between the Port Community System of Tilbury and the “e-puertobilbao” telematics platform of the Port of Bilbao for hinterland/foreland track/trace services (the so-called Intermodal corridor Community System).

Second, the efficient operations and environmental performance improvement of the Port of Bilbao, which involves different activities: the lengthening of the Punta Sollana Breakwater from 350 m to 680 m; the depth increase & reinforcement of the Axpe Docks from 2 m to 7 m and the reconstruction of a Ro–Ro ramp, to increase the ramp´s capacity from 125t to 250t, improving its design to reduce vessel turnaround time by 15%.
Third, the development of the Central Pier in its first phase with a budget of 125 million euro. (Future Proofing Bilbao, 20% co-financed).

The three abovementioned projects were led by the port or included an important participation of the port. Apart from those, we have participated in Business to Motorways of the Sea led by Valenciaport foundation (B2MOS) and we have just started a MOS project led by Finnlines, the Biskay Line project.

ESPO: ESPO’s next annual conference will look into ways of making the logistic chain more efficient. What is Bilbao doing to optimise the logistic chain? What are the barriers?

Port of Bilbao: The “e-puertobilbao” telematics platform is Bilbao Port Authority’s (APB) pledge to improve document interchange and communications with companies in the port community in such a way that its services offer the maximum competitive positioning possible for the companies participating in the Bilbao port-maritime business.

The “e-puertobilbao” initiative is a project headed by the port, whose development guidelines are marked by the Port Community companies. “E-puertobilbao” was born with a vocation to become the platform of reference for providing electronic commerce services within the whole user community of the Port of Bilbao. In order to achieve this, the Port Authority reached an agreement with all the parties involved, so as to constitute and gain the loyalty of the different agents that make up the port sector in a virtual community.

Its fundamental goal is to achieve greater speed and efficiency in the passage of vessels and goods through the port, in such a way that companies and the port as a whole will be more competitive.

At present, the platform is offering services to all companies involved in the overall logistic chain, focusing especially on connecting port hinterland and foreland in order to provide added value services to the new concept of intermodal community corridor.

ESPO: What are the Port of Bilbao’s environmental priorities?

Port of Bilbao: One of the initiatives covered by the Port strategic Plan 2013-2017 was to become a reference in environmental management. Since then, apart from maintaining the ISO 14001 certification, the port has obtained EMAS Certification that accredits its inscription in the Eco-management and Audit Scheme Register. This certification is another step in the entity’s commitment to social responsibility, which is aimed at the public company’s external responsibilities to coincide with citizens’ rights. Apart from that, we carry out the following actions:
  • Measures to guarantee water quality, among which there is an ambitious land-sea waste collection project.
  • Air quality control by setting up a network of control points with different parameters.
  • Updating the “Noise Map”, in order to know the situation and make it available to local councils and the Territorial council of Biscay. 
  • Methods aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing the consumption of natural resources, such as carrying out an energy audit and acquiring thirteen hybrid vehicles combining electric and petrol engines, seven vehicles using LPG, and a rapid intervention vehicle powered by both gas and petrol
  • Signing “good practices” agreements with the port terminals to encourage investment in environmental improvement. 

ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, an FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is Bilbao’s approach for measuring the port’s performance?

Port of Bilbao: We have a Balanced Scorecard as a management tool that defines clear baselines and targets for programme and management outputs. In that sense, every year we define objectives derived from the strategic guidelines. In conjunction, we have defined a series of performance indicators in order to measure the efficiency of the objectives defined. This has evolved in a continuous improvement process since 2009.

Related documents

No attachments.