Port pro of the month: Jean-Pierre Chalus (FR)

21 December 2020

We end the year in Guadeloupe, one of France’s outermost regions, where we meet with Jean-Pierre Chalus, CEO of the Port of Guadeloupe and Chairman of the Union des Ports de France (UPF). Jean-Pierre has a long-track record in the port sector and will explain us how it is to run a EU Port in the Caribbean.

 

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

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is a French national, financially autonomous public institution that possesses five main sites in the Guadeloupe archipelago.

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is a multi-purpose port that handles a diversity of maritime traffic that ranges from cargo shipping to passenger vessels and leisure craft. Since 2013, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes has had the status of Grand Port Maritime.

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes manages the maritime access and port facilities of all the ports within its domain with a clear mission: optimise the quality of maritime access to Guadeloupe, promote trade between Guadeloupe and the Caribbean while reinforcing the integration of the port within its environment.

Within the perimeter of its jurisdiction, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is in charge of the extension, improvement, renovation and reconstruction work, port operations, maintenance and policing, as well as the management and development of the real estate and land under its authority.

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is a logistic and industrial entity that provides an interface between land and sea for the benefit of the territory, its inhabitants and its economy.

Last but not least, the port of Guadeloupe is an agile port, which has a good reputation of reliability that must be maintained. With our port community, we are always looking for new opportunities. We also have beautiful projects with the Caribbean Shipping Association. 

How did you get into maritime transport and port business?

Nothing predestined me to this area. I am from the centre of France, with no contact with the maritime world. A middle-mountain area, a land of rugby that likes to face the teams of England or Ireland, like the one supported by our former president of ESPO. I started my engineer’s career in the early 1990s, first in the road sector. I worked for about 15 years in the construction, maintenance and operations business for public and a private company. A friend of mine introduced me to the ports and that's how I got into this totally new world for me. I thank Dominique Bussereau, Minister of Transport, who trusted me by offering me to take over the management of the port of La Rochelle. At that time, it was the latest port created under the French State.

 You were previously the CEO of the Port of Nantes Saint-Nazaire. Now you are the CEO of the Port of Guadeloupe, which is located in a French overseas region in the southern Caribbean Sea. What are the main differences between heading one of the major French ports on continental Europe, and leading a port in a French overseas region? What have been the main challenges you have encountered so far? Having been leading now different French ports, could you shed a light on the diversity of seaports?

Before talking about differences, there are a lot of similarities. For example, the port of Nantes Saint-Nazaire has significant commercial links with the French West Indies. On the other hand, governance patterns are very close. As in my previous positions, the main challenge is to understand the expectations of the territory and to meet the social, economic and political actors. My time in the Union des Ports de France made me aware of the great diversity of French ports, their operating models and also their great willingness to serve their customers with great ambitions facing climate challenge.

Most ports are in places that are sensitive to the environment, biodiversity but also integrated close to cities. I would say that all French ports are different. Each one traces its way with its port community, its territory, NGOs, citizens, ... Wealth is born of diversity. Cultural aspects and regional features are also important. It is the same at European level. I welcome the work of the ESPO team, who does its utmost to try to bring together reflections that sometimes separate us. I take this opportunity to invite the ESPO team to go to the field to integrate all these peculiarities. Starting with Guadeloupe?

Joining the port of Guadeloupe is a great opportunity for me not only to reconnect, but also to discover new territories and new cultures. In terms of activities, I broaden my horizons with boating and yachting. I wish to keep the link with my French and European colleagues as much as possible. This requires some effort (getting up early and going to bed late) and a little of organization. To be followed...

The Port of Guadeloupe is part of the EU’s overseas countries and territories (OCT’s). What impact does this status have on the applicability of EU law?  In which areas does EU law have an impact on the Port of Guadeloupe, and in which areas does it have no impact?

France is one of the European Member States having overseas countries and territories (OCTs) as well as outermost regions (ORs). Guadeloupe is an outermost region and this means that Guadeloupe is an integral part of the EU. Outermost regions have a particular structural, social and economic situation, with their remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate and economic dependence on a few products. Therefore, outermost regions are eligible to particular State aid exemption rules when it gets public funding. The accessibility of European funding is not so easy for outermost ports. ERDF, Interreg or Life have no secret for us but CEF is less accessible.

For instance, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes enrolled in a project called “Adapt’Island” for which it received European LIFE subsidy of 2.53 million euros. The aim of the project was to develop Nature-based Solutions in order to increase the resilience of Guadeloupe, in particular the port, against global climate change and to promote networking of the Caribbean stakeholders around these subjects.

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is currently member of the steering committee of an Interreg IV project, which aims to protect and restore a mangrove forest close to the port area.

With these kinds of ambitious projects, we have a leading position in the Caribbean Sea.

The EU foresees funding, among others through its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), for transport infrastructure projects in the EU’s overseas countries and territories. Has the Port of Guadeloupe been able to benefit from EU funding? What is the importance of EU funding for a port like the Port of Guadeloupe?

Port of outermost regions are comprehensive ports of the TEN-T and they could indeed benefit from CEF; either through a call dedicated to comprehensive network or through Motorways of the Sea. This option is currently not really adapted to French overseas ports as they have strong maritime links with their mainland and within their own region. These links are not cross-border. For us, the criteria of at least one core port from another Member State is an obstacle. 

Nevertheless, ports of the outermost regions need to finance the adaptation of their infrastructure as they have this particularity that they handle almost 95% of goods that are intended to local consumption. They are essential infrastructure not only for the import and export of goods but also for diversified economic activities, which generate significant benefits for all territories: fishing, naval repair and maintenance, boating, research and marine protection for example, and of course, passengers transport and cruise tourism. Additionally, they allow territorial continuity with mainland, which helps strengthen cohesion between the various overseas territories and France. They also develop an activity of transshipment, such as Port Reunion, in the Indian Ocean. Port Reunion is beneficiary of a CEF funding (2019 call) of 2.175 Million € for a study to prepare the ability of the port to respond to the growing needs as regional hub, in view of the increasing maritime connectivity. The study includes as well the climate change adaptation challenge, in particular the rise of ocean levels and increasing extreme climate weather circumstances.

 

Since 2019, you have been President of the Union des Ports de France (UPF), the national association representing and defending the interests of French ports. What are the main debates in the French port sector at the moment? UPF has recently issued a paper on the importance of French ports in the construction of renewable energy. Can you briefly explain how port managing bodies can support the energy transition?

Early 2020, the French ports have identified five European priorities for 2020-2024:

  • greening ports and transport,
  • enhancing smart port,
  • strengthening the Trans-European Network for Transport,
  • investing in ports,
  • ensuring open and fair international trade.

These priorities are still accurate, even if some have been adapted with the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown periods.

All French ports are currently focused on the preparation of the national recovery and resilience plan, which is a great opportunity to implement project investment in favour of the greening of ports and transport. French ports facilitate and contribute to the development in the port areas of an energy mix with zero or low emissions (ocean energy, offshore wind energy, photovoltaic, LGN, hydrogen, green hydrogen, etc.) to cope with the demand of port clients and hinterland needs. All ports are embarked in this transition. This is particularly demonstrated by the paper coedited in October 2020 by Union des Ports de France and Observatoire des Energies de la Mer on the role of French ports for the deployment of the ocean energy. Ports are part of the value chain of the renewable marine energy as they offer the best suitable conditions during the different phases: industrial production, logistics, operation, maintenance and dismantling. French ports are mobilised for the development of renewable ocean energy, particularly with investment to develop the existing infrastructure. In 2019, 55 Million Euros were invested by French ports and more than 600 Million euros since 2010.

French ports, and particularly those located in the Channel and North Sea, will have to face a historical date, 1st January 2021. A lot of efforts were made for the preparation of the effective withdrawal of UK from EU to preserve not only the traffic fluidity in line with French customs, health and veterinary administrations, but also to alert transport operators on the new formalities. Some French fishing ports highly depend on the access to UK waters. Combined with the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on ferry traffic or on the out-of-home catering, the situation is exceptional and needs to be closely monitored.

 The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the European economy and society. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Port of Guadeloupe?

Like all ports, the Covid-19 crisis has had an impact on the port and its wider community. The most significant impacts are in cruise and passenger activity, as well as boating (the port of Guadeloupe is in charge of a marina). As Guadeloupe is an archipelago, there are many links via ferries to the neighbouring islands. This has a strong impact on the entire economy of the island, a significant part of which being based on tourism. It goes without saying that many economic sectors are affected in a chain: taxis, maritime agents, pilots, naval repair, ...

It is therefore very important to work on the resumption of the cruise business and the health protocols. Developing them at European level is a necessity. For Guadeloupe and Martinique, it will also be important to have regional harmonisation, especially with the United States. In addition, close coordination with the aviation world is essential. A significant proportion of cruise passengers come from Europe, Quebec or the United States.

 The Commission prepares a review of the TEN-T policy. What are your main concerns in that respect?

Union des Ports de France (UPF) takes part in the revision process of the TEN-T policy. Our main concern relates to a better organisation of the network. The organisation of the core network and the comprehensive network should be completed, strengthened and modernized, with reference to consistency with the rail freight corridors. The existing criteria of being part of the TEN-T Core Network – especially NUTS 1 – should be supplemented. We therefore ask for a new TEN-T core network criterion as being part of one existing rail freight corridor.  We also believe that the role of the global network should be strengthened in order to support the core network (door-to-door logic, reduction negative externalities of saturated areas). UPF also supports the clustering of ports, taking into consideration the diversity of the local situation and therefore recognising all forms of ports clusters enabling the further development of the TEN-T.

The future TEN-T policy should be in line with priorities for the development and adaptation of ports: multimodality, green transition and digital transition. These priorities are shared by comprehensive and core ports. 

Regarding the green transition, UPF promotes a a goal-based and technology neutral approach, as ESPO, and believes that any initiative on the supply of electricity to vessels at berth should take into account the ability of ports to develop a comprehensive vision thanks to collective local approaches that associate all actors (ports, port terminals, shipowners, energy suppliers and infrastructure manager, industries, local, communities, NGOs, etc.). It should be based on impact studies, in order to define appropriate solutions that respond to an economic model specific to each port. Additionally, we support the development of synergies between TEN-Transport and TEN-Energy.

UPF also promotes the need to strengthen the connectivity with neighbouring countries (such as Southern Mediterranean) and its extension to neighbouring countries in the outermost regions (such as Indian Ocean, the Guyana Plateau and the Caribbean). 

Last but not least, UPF shares ESPO’s concerns regarding the recognition of the cross-border nature of seaports and the simplification of criteria for Motorways of the Sea. 

In 2017, the Port of Guadeloupe won the ESPO Award on societal integration with its Port’Art project. Can you briefly describe the Port of Guadeloupe’s added value to the region? Have you recently taken new initiatives to strengthen the relationship between the Port and the local community?

Between 2009 and 2014, over one million euros were devoted to regional, national and international partnerships. The conducted projects concerned water and waste management, climate change and energy, natural resources, environmental protection and heritage, the management of the territory and quality of life, as well as eco-responsibility, cooperation and labeling. Numerous projects are conducted by associations that are active in the environmental sector in Guadeloupe. We have worked in the fields of sea and mangroves including the restoration of sea turtle breeding grounds.

Since 2010, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes has undertaken actions to make awareness of younger generations aware of jobs in the maritime and port sectors and to inspire ecology-oriented jobs and careers. The objective is to enable young generations to benefit from career perspectives related to the modernisation of port facilities and the development of related sectors. Every year, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes devotes nearly 100,000 euros to the development of the skills of young people who are welcomed by the organisation in order to promote their professional integration.

This synergy of stakeholders ensures the sustainability of the actions and the capacity-building that surrounds the environmental actions of Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is essential for the effectiveness and sustainability of the actions.

The Port of Guadeloupe is a member of the ESPO EcoPorts Network, and received in 2019 for the first time EcoPorts’ Port Environmental Review System (PERS) certification, which is the only port-sector specific environmental management standard. Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Guadeloupe’s environmental priorities? How do you think a port managing body can contribute to the decarbonisation of transport and the logistics chain?

The Cáyoli programme is a partnership based environmental programme from Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes. The ambition of Cáyoli is to bring together local players to develop specific and pertinent solutions for the restoration of coastal ecosystems. One of its main ambitions is to dispose of effective means to preserve and restore coastal ecosystems. It embraces responsibility as manager of the natural area of Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes and implements action and trials relating to preservation and the restoration of the biodiversity, to incubation for innovative technologies for the benefits of nature and to the establishment of sustainable economic activities.

The actions implemented under the Cáyoli programme are of great interest in terms of preparing for the adaptation to climate change.

Climate change has three main impacts in Guadeloupe and more specifically on the Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes facilities and on natural environment, particularly the coral reefs, mangroves and beaches, the increase in water and air temperatures, the increase in the sea level of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and the increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

The consequences of these changes are economic, notably through a reduction in the tourism value of the island (degradation of remarkable habitats, the disappearance of beaches), the decrease in sports tourism activities, the decrease in periods of nice weather (hurricanes, rain or drought, etc.) and water shortages.

For Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes, adapting to climate change means reducing vulnerability and exposure to these events through protection measures (population and ports users, facilities and infrastructures, natural environment) and of mitigation within a context of increased port productivity.

These adaptation measures must therefore be scalable and suitable for current and future climatic modifications. This is particularly true for economic sectors that require heavy infrastructures, like port installations. The establishment of adaptive measures as early as possible should limit the cost of these impacts and provide early feedback to enable the measures to be adapted accordingly.

Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes has chosen to develop an Air Energy Climate Plan, which includes both the reduction of greenhouse gases and the adaptation to climate change. The climate change adaptation strategy of Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes aims to:

  • assess foreseeable impacts (on port activity, infrastructures, biodiversity, etc.),
  • reveal strategic and operational issues, 
  • identify opportunities,
  • preserve the port’s attractiveness,
  • gather the port team and the tenants around a common strategy adapted to the port’s needs and expectations,
  • identify levers for action.

The development of this Strategy resulted in the implementation of concrete actions at various levels of the port (governance, operation, development, etc.), together with a monitoring plan.  

The PERS certification in November 2019 recognised the actions already undertaken and the commitment of Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes. PERS not only integrates the main general requirements of the recognised environmental standards, but also takes into account the particularities of ports. PERS is based on the recommendations of the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), through EcoPorts, and lays down clear objectives for ports to target.

This recognition, as well as the numerous requests received from private companies, associations and public project owners, has led Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes to study the interest of developing its skills and expertise in terms of port and environmental engineering. Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes has become a major player for the preservation of the environment in Guadeloupe. The actions undertaken have contributed, on one hand, to the development of in-house expertise for the management of environmental restoration projects, and, on the other hand, to the acquisition of a certain recognition in this field.


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