Port of the month

Port of the Month: Port of Leixões (Portugal)

02 May 2017

This month we will take you to the Port of Leixões in Portugal. Strategically located in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, the Port of Leixões functions mainly as an export port, serving virtually all types of ships and cargo as well as cruises. Let’s have a closer look at this interesting port! 

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

Port of Leixões: Thanks to its strategic location in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, the Port of Leixões holds a privileged position in the European port system context. Leixões is mainly an export port, serving virtually all types of ships and cargo as well as cruises. It offers various regular shipping services to major European and global ports and has direct weekly connections to Angola and other African countries. Located at the intersection of important national and international routes, Leixões handles nearly 19 million tons of goods, which represents about 25% of the Portuguese Foreign Trade by sea.

The Port of Leixões is one of the most competitive and versatile multi-purpose ports in the country. Approximately 3,000 vessels a year call at the port, bringing more than 650 000 TEU’s and all kinds of goods, including agri-bulk, paper and cardboard, scrap metal, scrap glass, iron and steel, granites, textiles, sugar, beverages, cements, cork, components for wind turbines and petroleum products, and even passengers from Cruise Liners.

Leixões is a landlord port and in this framework, the handling of goods is practically entirely concessioned to the private sector except for the roll-on/roll-off cargo and cruises, which are under the jurisdiction of this Port Authority.

With 5 km of quay, 55 ha of embankments and 120 ha of wet area, Leixões is equipped with the most updated information systems for vessel’s traffic control and management. The safety of navigation and of the vessels’ loading and unloading operations is a differentiation of the services provided to cargoes and vessels, with a VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) system and a Coordination and Safety Centre, which cover the land and wet areas of the port and its access, and which fall within the Global Security Plan of the Port.

The use of modern communication techniques, supported by a philosophy of E-Port Community Systems, is one of the critical factors of success for the development of port business and it led to the design of the JUP (Janela Única Portuária) - Port Single Window.

Economic density, industrial companies located in the hinterland and its great central geodemographic situation, make the Port of Leixões the largest port infrastructure in the north of Portugal and a reference to the supply chains of the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

Our main challenges are related to reinforcing Leixões as the main port of the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, serving our clients with efficiency and fluency and being ready for the increasing demands in terms of cargo growth and vessel size. 

ESPO: Container traffic in the Port of Leixões is growing. How is the port anticipating the growth of the container business? Is the port planning any infrastructure projects?

Port of Leixões: The container handling activity at Leixões is operated through two terminals (North Container Terminal and South Container Terminal) and it is concessioned in a public service regime. The installed capacity amounts to about 7 million tons and 700 000 TEU’s. In fact, the containerised cargo at Leixões has been showing a steady growth and in 2016 both terminals handled 6.4 million tons and 660 000TEU’s, having reached its installed capacity.

Furthermore, the Port of Leixões is the major export port in the country in containerised cargo, which has been growing in recent years beating successive records year after year and reinforcing its position as the main port of the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula.

Anticipating the growth of the container business and new market demands for port operations, Leixões will invest initially through the South Container Terminal Reconversion and secondly by creating a new Container Terminal.

First, with the reconversion of the South Container Terminal, Leixões will take advantage of underexploited areas to improve port operations, increasing the area for parking full containers, and to enhance parking offer capacity to higher growth cargo at the port. It will also increase rail-maritime intermodality by creating a rail-port terminal. This embankments reconversion is estimated to represent an economic outcome of €406 million and it will increase productivity by about 12% and container handling capacity by 26%.

Secondly, the new Container Terminal with depths of -14 metres at the Port of Leixões will strengthen the position of this port in existing markets with direct calls and entering into new potential markets, which will provide an enhanced opportunity by the construction of the Logistic Platform of Leixões, already in progress. The new Container Terminal of Leixões will increase productivity by about 40% and it will double port capacity to about 1.5 million TEU’s.

ESPO: What are the main areas of competition that you face from competing EU ports?

Port of Leixões: Nowadays the critical aspect of the Port of Leixões is answering to the demand of new characteristics, in terms of increasing the size of the ships in different market segments, namely in the containerised cargo. 

The pressure of the new demand characteristics creates the need of new investments in the Port of Leixões in maritime accessibilities. These projects are identified in the Atlantic Corridor projects and in the National Port Strategic Plan.

The Port of Leixões must maintain other competitive advantages in terms of innovation and maritime economy, namely within IT and Logistic Single Window development.

ESPO: The cruise business plays an important role in the Port of Leixões. How is the cruise business evolving? What are the main challenges?

Port of Leixões: The Port of Leixões is the main gateway by sea to Porto and the appropriate place to welcome all passengers from cruise liners. Equipped with comfortable facilities for tourists, Leixões features two cruise terminals. The Leixões Passenger Terminal is a wooden construction that resembles a ship’s hull and it is considered an important architectural and historical heritage. The Passenger Terminal has no capacity limit for passengers in transit and allows the turnaround of approximately 750 passengers. This ‘Boutique Terminal’ occupies an area of about 840 m² with a berthing quay of 300 metres and depths of -10 metres for the berthing of cruise ships up to 250 metres of length.

Since April 2011, a new cruise quay of 340 metres long and 320 metres of length for berth is in operation. Since then, the biggest and the most glamorous cruise ships from the worldwide cruise fleet are welcome here, boosting the cruise tourism in the north of Portugal. The Porto Cruise Terminal is in full operation since March 2015 and the main building has a capacity for 2.500 passengers in turnaround.

The new Porto Cruise Terminal is the largest project ever for the opening of the Port of Leixões to the city and it is an important gateway to Porto. It is situated at the South Mole of the Port of Leixões, just 3 km from the city of Porto.  It has several amenities for transit cruise liners or turnaround cruise vessels, no limit capacity for passengers in transit and a capacity for 2 500 passengers in turnaround. With such infrastructure, Leixões is now able to welcome the biggest cruise ships in turnaround.

Since the opening of the new pier, the number of cruise ship calls and passengers at this port has been significantly increasing. Compared with 2010, a year before the opening of the new pier, the number of cruises increased more than 70% and the number of passengers almost trebled, which clearly demonstrates the importance of this new terminal, not only for Leixões but mostly for Porto Destination.

Investments made at the Port of Leixões, mainly the brand new Cruise Terminal as well as the commitment of this Port Authority in the promotion of the port worldwide, are being rewarded with record numbers of cruises and visitors. Year-end totals for 2017 are expected to reach nearly 110 000 passengers and 108 cruise ship calls are already planned, 14 of those visiting Leixões for the first time.

These numbers express an increase of 27% in the number of cruises and 46% in the number of passengers over last year and 33% more than the best year ever for Leixões cruise activity, recorded in 2015. This growth is set to continue in the upcoming years, moving Leixões even further up as an Atlantic Cruise Port of excellence.

Every year new companies are choosing Leixões for their itineraries at the Atlantic Coast. Royal Caribbean International has scheduled its debut at Leixões for this year season and other major companies are reinforcing their operations at Leixões with new and bigger ships.

ESPO: A good access to the hinterland is important to get goods to the desired destinations. Could you briefly tell us how the port is connected with the hinterland? Are you planning new projects to facilitate these connections?

Port of Leixões: Strategically located on the north-west front of the Iberian Peninsula with a hinterland rich in industry, the Port of Leixões comprises the largest seaport infrastructure in the north of Portugal. Its geodemographic centrality, encompassing 14 million inhabitants within a radius of 3 hours travelling distance, inevitably places Leixões at the intersection of major national and international routes.

The Port of Leixões is connected to its national and international hinterland through the Single Gateway matched by an exclusive access for trucks and cargo named Internal Connection Road to the Port of Leixões (VILPL), which is a road access that enables a fast access of heavy vehicles and their loads to the port, with a direct connection to the most important national highways.

The Single Gateway is a completely computerised platform, fitted with the most up-to-date infrastructures, aimed at simplifying all the procedures related to entrance or exit of heavy vehicles and their loads. It comprises the Identification Equipment and Register of Vehicles and Commodities, which ensures the communication between the customer, institutions and terminal operators, through the development of interfaces with users and other information systems, and automatically controls the entrances and departures of commodities and vehicles to and from the Port of Leixões. This computerised platform has shown itself to be a benchmark and it has become the object of numerous study visits.

Its operation model, without waiting periods for drivers, offers speed in customer reception and assures that vehicles will stay inside the port during a minimum amount of time.

The Single Gateway comprises the road haulage park and commodity control area, which gathers Customs, Concessionaries and revision and inspection equipment. It is directly connected to the Business Management System and to the geographical information system, swiftly registering all the required information for departure or entrance.

The road haulage traffic may therefore run smoothly without having to go through the surrounding cities, diminishing not only the traffic but also the related environmental pollution.

ESPO: The port of Leixões is part of the TEN-T Atlantic Core Network Corridor. How has this been of benefit for the port?

Port of Leixões: There are advantages for the Port of Leixões with its inclusion in the TEN-T Atlantic Core Network Corridor, namely in terms of creation and strength of commercial initiatives and cooperation and partnership opportunities.

Some new international cooperation projects are being developed in the Port of Leixões with CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) co-funding, such as the ATLANTIS – Atlantic Interoperable Services project, which is being developed within the context of the horizontal priority of the TEN-T to develop Motorways of the Sea services along the Atlantic coast of Europe.

It is a study with pilot activities that carries out the necessary preparatory activities required to facilitate the potential launch of new ro-ro and lo-lo MoS services along the Atlantic coast of Europe, including intermodal rail freight links between the ports and other regions (such as between Leixões and the rest of Portugal and some regions of Spain, namely Castile and Leon).

ATLANTIS is working towards developing services that will remove trucks from congested road networks through the Iberian Peninsula, across the natural barriers of the Pyrenees and the English Channel. It therefore works towards meeting the need of the horizontal TEN-T policy priority to provide an alternative to long distance road haulage by linking Portugal, Western France and the western coast of the UK by lo-lo and ro-ro services.

ATLANTIS is preparing for the development of higher quality services by using a collaborative Logistics Single Window (LSW) ICT system, which is being developed by the Port of Leixões in the scope of this project.

The high quality requirements for the ports of the TEN-T Atlantic Core Network Corridor favours the investment in its development.

The financing opportunities are more diversified, namely within EU programmes managed directly by the European Commission.

Regarding TEN-T and CEF Transport, the port authority APDL (Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo, S. A.) is part of the following actions:

  • MIELE – Multimodal Interoperability e-Services for Logistics and Environment Sustainability beneficiary (TEN-T);
  • WiderMoS – Wide Interoperability and new governance moDels for freight Exchange linking Regions through Multimodal maritime based cOrridorS  - beneficiary (TEN-T);
  • AnNa - Advanced National Networks for Administrations – beneficiary (TEN-T);
  • Multimodal Logistic Platform of the Port of Leixões – coordinator – total cost: €22 million (CEF);
  • Douro Inland Waterways 2020 (phase I) – coordinator – total cost: €4.7 million (CEF);
  • Douro Inland Waterways 2020 (RIS) – coordinator – total cost: €2.8 million (CEF);
  • Douro Inland Waterways (SSA) – coordinator  – total cost: €10million (CEF);
  • Picasso - Preventing  Incidents  and  Accidents  for  Safer  Ships  in  the Oceans (CEF)  - beneficiary – total cost: e3.8 million (CEF);
  • e-Freight Implementation Action (e-Impact) – beneficiary – total cost: €3.9 million (CEF);
  • Studies for the RailRoad accessibility to the Port of Leixões – beneficiary – total cost: €1.5 million (CEF);
  • ATLANTIS - Atlantic Interoperable Services – beneficiary – total cost – €3.6 million (CEF).


ESPO: The Port of Leixões also operates as an oil port. Is the Port of Leixões 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?

Port of Leixões: As a port of the TEN-T Atlantic Core Network Corridor and as a port of the Atlantic Corridor, the Port of Leixões faces the challenges in the field of alternative energy.

Recently, the Port of Leixões analysed the technical feasibility of carrying out a ship retrofitting pilot project (tugboat). This was done within the GAIN4MOS - Sustainable LNG Operations for Ports and Shipping - Innovative Pilot Actions project, which aims to comply with environmental regulation (Marpol Annex VI and Directive 2012/33/EU) in the most efficient way, by facilitating the growth of LNG as marine fuel in the maritime and port logistics industry and to comply with the Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.

Nowadays some preliminary meetings are in progress with Galp Energia, the principal private partner of the Port of Leixões within the liquid bulk sector, in order to define a strategic solution to position the Port of Leixões as a bunkering platform of LNG.

It is also intended to evaluate the feasibility of ensuring the supply of electricity to the vessels of the Port of Leixões.

Additionally, various investments have been developed in terms of energy efficiency, through the promotion of measures that reduce the consumption and the cost of energy in the Port of Leixões.

ESPO: The 2017 ESPO Conference in Barcelona will focus on “Climate”. Does the Port of Leixões has its own climate agenda? What are the other main environmental policies?

Port of Leixões: The Port of Leixões was the first European port to publish a Sustainability Report back in 2006.  As stated in its sustainability policy, the Port of Leixões aims at sustainability in all fields of activity, incorporating in the management model and in the process of decision making and business strategy, principles of ethics, social responsibility and environmental best practices, fostering active involvement of direct stakeholders (concessionaries, suppliers and employees).

At an economic level, the port promotes the competitiveness of Leixões in logic of sustainable development and diversification of business areas in constant dialogue with all the strategic stakeholders. At an environmental level, the port is minimising the impact of port operations activities in the physical environment in which it operates, through its permanent environmental monitoring. At a social level, the port is fostering relationships with the community, in order to also contribute to its economic welfare, and promoting professional and personal development and quality of life of the company employees and families.

Furthermore, Leixões has implemented other important actions aimed at environmental monitoring, reducing the environmental impacts of port operations and reducing water and electricity consumption, such as a noise and particles monitoring system in the port area 24 hours a day, mitigating handling of commodities impacts, and measures to save energy and waste management.

By implementing these initiatives the Port of Leixões seeks to consolidate and promote the “Port of Leixões” brand in an integrated and consistent manner, to increase the high-quality package of services, adapted to the market needs and to endow the Port of Leixões with the facilities and know-how to back up its activity and to strengthen the urban integration and external accessibility.

ESPO: The Port of Leixões is located near the city centre, a good relationship with the local community is therefore important. How is the port engaging to integrate itself more within the local community?

Port of Leixões: The mission of the Port of Leixões is to provide recognised value services to our users through adequate provision of infrastructure, a high operating efficiency, skilled and motivated human resources, a practice of sustainability and safety, organising and developing the port area and (above all) ensuring adequate urban integration, involving the port community of Leixões.

The port develops annually a wide range of initiatives to integrate itself more and more within the local community: the Day of the Port of Leixões is one of such initiatives opening the port to the whole community for a unique opportunity to meet port operations and facilities, vessels, among other activities; the Port of Leixões Run invites the local community to participate in a 10 km run or in a 6 km walk within the port facilities; more than 6000 students are visiting the port every year at various educational levels within a policy of ‘open the port to our youth community’.

Recently, Leixões opened the Porto Cruise Terminal, which is the largest project ever for the opening of the Port of Leixões to the city and an important gateway of the region. Porto Cruise Terminal is more than just a cruise terminal. The building also hosts the CIIMAR (Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research), a research and advanced training institution of the University of Porto whose mission is to develop exceptional quality research, to promote technological development and to support public policies in the area of Marine and Environmental Sciences.

Porto Cruise Terminal is also open daily to the public, making it alive and dynamic. It can host cultural events (Meetings & Incentives) and it is a privileged place to admire the city and its beaches through an open space in the building's terrace.

ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, a FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. How is the Port of Leixões measuring the port’s performance?

Port of Leixões: The Port of Leixões measures its performance in terms of achieving the defined targets and objectives, which are multilevel and serving a wide range of stakeholders.

The Strategic Plan of the Port of Leixões is the most important reference, because it defines the ports strategy and long-term objectives, and involves a strong participation of all stakeholders including the shareholder. In medium/short term, the Port of Leixões refines annually its Budget and Activities Plan, in which the objectives for a three-year period are established. This Plan, which is aligned with the Strategic Plan, is approved by the shareholder. In addition to these Plans, the Port of Leixões defines annually more operational objectives and actions to implement throughout the year.

All these objectives are monitored in a monthly basis to measure their performance. The Management Report, the Balanced Scorecard and the Quality Management System are important tools to make this evaluation possible.

In the end of the year the Port of Leixões elaborates and publishes annual reports, such as the Annual Report and the Sustainability Report that allow a more complete evaluation of the port performance in terms of economic, social and environmental indicators. In fact, Leixões was the first European port to publish a Sustainability Report in 2006.

The Sustainability Report of Leixões is an important instrument of communication with all stakeholders, providing evidence on progresses made and commitments achieved within the three pillars of sustainability and it is developed according to the G4 sustainability reporting guidelines, ensuring greater objectivity of issues included such as increasing corporate social responsibility, monitoring and minimising the environmental impact of port activity and improve energy efficiency.

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