Port of the month

Port pro of the month: Enrique Belda (ES)

25 June 2024

Our port pro of the month is Enrique Belda, Director General of the Port Authority of Valencia since January 2024. In what follows, you will read more about investment, innovation and greening in this Spanish Port, as well as digitalisation in the port sector. Discover the other interesting topics our port pro of the month addressed below!

Enrique Belda, Director General of the Port Authority of Valencia. 

Can you briefly tell us about the Port Authority of Valencia? What are its main characteristics and challenges? 

The Port Authority of Valencia is the public body governing three ports in the Spanish Mediterranean coast: Sagunto, Valencia and Gandia, grouped under the commercial name of Valenciaport. The three ports are diverse, with Valencia being the biggest one, with a throughput of around 70 million tons, Sagunto with more than 8 million tons and Gandia with around 200.000 tons. We are a multipurpose port, with terminals handling different cargo types such as liquid and solid bulk, general cargo (Container &RoRo) and passengers, both cruise and liner ferry vessels. But our main cargo is containers. We are a mixed hub container port, attracting both import,export and transhipment in the port terminals. Our strategic location makes us the main container port serving the Spanish market with some 40% of all export/import containers of the country, and one of the best-connected European ports according to the latest UNCTAD report.

The ports managed by the Port Authority of Valencia are a key element for the development of the Valencian Community and its hinterland. In the year before the pandemic (2019), Valenciaport generated almost 50,000 jobs, 2.5% of the total employment in the Valencian Community and more than 3,200 million euros, 3.1% of the Gross Value Added. Valenciaport is the link between the exporting and importing companies in its area of influence and the outside world, which have at their disposal more than 100 regular lines together with the service of Valenciaport's facilities in each of its ports.

Regarding the challenges, like many other main ports, we must face the common challenge of decarbonising our activities, while ensuring the efficiency of the logistics chains using the port. Fostering digitalisation and cooperation, providing a proper cybersecurity in a more digitalised supply chain is also a must. And always bearing in mind the importance of keeping the societal value of our activities.

What is your long-term vision for the Port Authority of Valencia? What are the main investment projects for the next few years? 

The three ports managed by the Port Authority of Valencia are not an end in themselves, but a tool at the service of society and companies to facilitate their integration into current logistics chains, which have gone beyond the local dimension, becoming global and pursuing the principles of sustainability and efficiency and promoting the creation of wealth, value and prosperity in the environment. 

Our mission is to be a fundamental instrument for the articulation of global logistics chains, more sustainable and efficient, generating prosperity for the port environment, the country's economy and the people. In the coming years our main investment will be focused on improving our connectivity, both maritime and with the hinterland, promoting the modal shift to rail when possible. Decarbonisation is also one of our priorities, where we have planned a set of investment to cope, for example, with the Onshore Power Supply (OPS) requirements in our ports and also in producing and implementing renewal energies for the port operations.

With regards to investments, we have seen that there are several investments underway in the Port. In this respect, we would like to further know about those carried out in the areas of Research, Development, and Innovation? 

We are convinced that innovation is a key element to ensure the competitiveness of the logistics chains using the port. We’ve been very active in promoting innovation in the port community to ensure that new technologies are adopted regarding key challenges as improving port operations sustainability or just in time processes. Together with Fundación Valenciaport, our innovation think tank, we have been involved in several projects. As a recent example, I can mention the H2Ports project, where we’ve been testing in the port H2 as an alternative fuel for port equipment (reach stacker and truck terminal) or the Port CdM (Collaborative Decision Making) tool developed in the framework of the Ports 4.0 fund.

Port of Valencia. ©zeppeline

The port of Valencia, is the first in Spain and the fourth in Europe in terms of containers. In this sense, we read about the ongoing project on the increase the capacity of the port and the new Container Terminal to be built on the Northern area. Please, could you further explain us this project? What will be the impact of such initiative for the port? 

The Northern Container Terminal will be a start-of-the-art technology terminal, incorporating the most advanced technologies for port operation and automation. It will be also a reference in sustainability, as it will be a zero-emission facility. It will add efficiency and capacity to the port in order to be prepared to cope with future traffic developments, ensuring that Valenciaport will keep on being the port of choice in the Western Mediterranean and, thus, facilitating the connectivity and the service level that our customers require.

Valencia is not only an important cargo port, but also an important passenger port.  Are you also having plans in this field?  

Passenger traffic is very relevant for us, both the ferry liner traffic linking the port with the Balearic Islands and North Africa and the cruise traffic. We have plans for upgrading the existing facilities, for example through the construction of a new international passenger terminal for serving both segments. We are committed to provide the best services for the passengers and to collaborate with local authorities to promote a sustainable growth of the cruise traffic.

We are aware that the Port is working on the deployment of Onshore Power Supply (OPS). Which terminals will be equipped? How will it function in practice? Who is paying the investment? Is there enough grid available? Are shipping lines ready to engage to use? 

Like in many other European ports, we expect to have deployed the required infrastructure in all our container and passenger terminals by 2030. Main investments are planned by the Port Authority, in collaboration with the different port tenants. We are also preparing our grid and the required power to cope with the expected demand, which is one of the key elements for the correct deployment of the system. At the same time, we are currently working of the definition of how this service will be provided, taking into account the Spanish regulation. As you mention, the collaboration and commitment of the shipping lines will be key for the final success of the scheme, as they will define the final demand, while we have to work to provide the best service at a reasonable price. 

The greening of a port requires the help of all port stakeholders. What can the Port of Valencia do to encourage all stakeholders to adopt more sustainable policies in their operations? 

We have a long history of working with the Port Community in improving port environmental performance. Back in 1998 we launched the ECOPORT Project where we developed a common structure for implementing Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in port companies. Nowadays, the ECOPORT Council keeps on working together, gathering more than 30 port companies committed to improve the sustainability of their operations through a common approach. Thanks to the ECOPORT Council, not only EMS have been implemented, but energy saving schemes, common waste management and common environmental objectives have been fixed along the years.

Port of Gandia. ©zeppeline

The EU aims to have a climate-neutral economy by 2050. What are the measures the Port of Valencia is adopting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035? How can the Port of Valencia also be part of the solution and contribute to decarbonise the surrounding economy and society? 

We are fully aligned with the EU commitment to decarbonise the European economy. In fact, we, as a port, have the objective of becoming carbon neutral in 2030, thus helping to achieve this ambitious goal. Nevertheless, for this policy to succeed, we must take on board the whole Port Community and the different port stakeholders. For this, we have developed a “Net Zero Emissions Plan” where we are addressing the different challenges for port decarbonisation, from OPS to the development of innovative projects regarding alternative fuels or the electrification of port operations. 

We recently read that Lebanon has shown interest in the port of Valencia to relaunch its port activity. Please, could you further explain us about this partnership? What are the implications and benefits of such joint partnership for the port?

In the Port Authority of Valencia, we are also convinced of the important of port collaboration and partnership. We have been working with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) since the late 90’s, promoting a network of port professionals. If our experience can benefit others, helping them to improve their efficiency or, as it is the case, to relaunch their activities after a big shock like the one suffered in Lebanon, we will be more than happy to help.

How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?

In fact, I began my career as a Civil Engineer in the Port of Valencia, where I participated in several projects. Then, after moving to the Spanish central government, where during more than 30 years I held different positions regarding transport and security, now I am back to the port world, where I’m sure that all the experience accumulated these years will help me to cope with the great challenges that the sector will face in the coming years.

Finally, if you had to bring us to your favourite spot in the Port of Valencia, where would you take us? 

I would take you to the port mouth, where Valencia opens his arms to the Mediterranean Sea. There you understand why, centuries ago, a group of merchants of this vibrant city decided to create what, nowadays, is the first Spanish container port.

Port of Valencia. ©zeppeline

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