Port Pro of the month

Port pro of the month: José Alberto Carbonell (ES)

29 November 2022

The Port of Barcelona won the 2022 ESPO Award on societal integration. It is the perfect opportunity to conduct an interview with Mr. José Alberto Carbonell Camallonga, Managing Director of the Port of Barcelona in Spain. Discover the interesting topics he addresses below!

1.      Can you briefly present the Port of Barcelona? What are its main activities, opportunities, and challenges?

The Port of Barcelona is the international trade hub of Catalonia and one of the main transport and service hubs in southern Europe and the Mediterranean. We provide companies with the conditions required for their growth and internationalisation, for the growth of the economy and therefore for the well-being of our citizens. We bring together 24% of Spain's foreign maritime trade and 74% of that of Catalonia. The Port of Barcelona is the top port in the Spanish port system in terms of revenue and we are also the port with the highest goods value.

Barcelona Port Community comprises more than 500 companies and 37,000 workers. The Port’s activity generates around 250,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs, which is 7.1% of employment in Catalonia, while our contribution to Catalan GDP is 2%.

We are a very diversified port, with more than thirty terminals specialising in containers, vehicles, hydrocarbons, cereals, chemicals, ferries, cruises, coffee and cocoa, potash, and more, reflecting the economy in our hinterland.

In 2021 we had a total traffic of 66.4 million tonnes and a container traffic of 3.5 million TEU. Passenger traffic has not yet returned to pre-pandemic figures, but we expect to again reach 4.5 million passengers in the short term and to continue to be Europe's top cruise port.

Last year we ranked eighth in terms of container traffic in Europe. However, the Port of Barcelona's objectives are not measured in terms of how many containers or how many tonnes we move, but with reference to the benefits we bring to our community.

Thus, the objectives of our Fourth Strategic Plan 2021-2025, currently under development, include increasing the number of direct, indirect and induced jobs; increasing the value of foreign trade and halving our emissions by 2030 to become a carbon-neutral port by 2050.

2.      What is your long-term vision for the Port of Barcelona? Do you have a masterplan or port strategy? What are the main investment projects for the coming years? Could you briefly describe the importance of these investment projects for the port and the city?

The Port of Barcelona's Fourth Strategic Plan 2021-2025 sets out how we aim to move forward in the short term and as we look forward to 2040.

The General Strategic Objective of the Plan is rolled out along the three pillars of sustainability - economic, environmental, and social - which is the main characteristic of the logistics hub of Barcelona, and a firm commitment to innovation. We want to grow economically while reducing the environmental footprint of port activity and consolidating quality employment. We want to grow, but to do so sustainably.

Consequently, we have begun a new cycle of eco-efficient investments that materialises in the reorganisation of wharves and terminals, the energy transition and sustainable mobility. We plan to invest more than €1.5 billion over the next eight years in projects such as concentrating container activity in the south area; generating clean energy and electrifying wharves; and building road and rail accesses and the Railway Node.

The reorganisation of wharves and terminals will allow us to concentrate all container traffic activity in the southern area of the precinct, and cruise ship activities on the Adossat wharf. These actions will make it possible to minimise the environmental externalities of port activity in the densily populated city areas while generating new spaces for public use. Other actions include improving the berths dedicated to LNG, hydrocarbons and chemical products on the Energy wharf.

Maritime transport and port operations are a constant source of challenges. These challenges require innovative solutions. The Port’s strategy for the coming years includes the electrification of the wharves, boosting the efficient and sustainable intermodal solutions (based on a greater use of the railway) to connect with our hinterland and rethinking the relationship between the Port and the city.

The Wharf Electrification Plan, the boost given to efficient and sustainable intermodal solutions to connect with our hinterland - based on a greater use of the railway -, rethinking the relationship between the Port and the city and developing innovative solutions to the challenges constantly posed by maritime transport and port operations all complete the Port of Barcelona's strategy for the coming years. 

Innovation is precisely one of the bases on which we are developing our strategic agenda. We are a SMART port, and we want to become even more so. We are committed to developing and implementing innovative solutions internally, with the roll-out of the Innovation Plan while also promoting solutions in our surrounding area.

One example is our participation, together with Barcelona City Hall and the Catalan government, in the innovation hub focused on the blue economy; In this way we are attracting further talent and entrepreneurship and make ourselves attractive to companies from this sector.

To move forward in this Port SMART model, we are betting on digitalisation and training. We are constantly working to improve our Port Community System (PORTIC), and to digitalise the entire logistics chain. We also continue to promote and become involved in what we call the "Port-related training map”: which includes the Barcelona Logistics Institute, created this year and which began teaching its classes at the Port last September,  the Blended Vocational Training, which fosters training in port and logistics companies such as those in which students will work in the future, degrees and post-graduate studies related to the nautical industry, and the European Intermodal Transport School, to name just a few.

3.      What is the Port of Barcelona's hinterland connectivity like? Has the port authority invested in enhancing connectivity? Are there any missing links, challenges?

The Delta Plan, approved in 1994, set out the design of the expansion of Barcelona’s Port and Airport, among other strategic infrastructures. It already provided for the construction of new road and rail accesses that would channel the large volume of goods that the enlarged Port of Barcelona would generate.

The years have gone by, and these new accesses have not been built, which has led the Port to develop solutions to continue providing the best services and avoid congestion scenarios. The Port of Barcelona opted for the rail mode from the outset. This commitment to rail has been consolidated and the port currently has an average of 270 weekly movements of all kinds of trains in the three gauges with which we operate (Iberian, European and metric). In 2021, 16% of containers and 42% of cars were moved by rail, the highest rail share in Spain. The rail freight corridor between Zaragoza and the Port of Barcelona is the largest in Spain.

The Port of Barcelona's desire to bring its services closer to shippers and end-customers led it to set up, more than twenty years ago, a whole network of inland maritime terminals and intermodal services based on the generation of corridors that combined the maritime, land and rail modes to offer competitive and sustainable solutions for the European and Mediterranean traffic passing through the Port. In the last ten years we have taken 2.8 million trucks off the road thanks to this strategy.

At present, the Port of Barcelona's intermodal services and its inland maritime terminals, which are the result of public-private partnerships, connect us daily with our main markets by rail. Our network extends to Zaragoza, Huesca, Logroño, Madrid, Pamplona, Burgos, Perpignan, etc. In the Mediterranean area, short sea shipping services also connect Barcelona daily with several ports in Italy and North Africa.

The Port of Barcelona is committed to developing intermodal solutions based on rail and maritime modes because they generate the least environmental impact. In 2021, Port rail traffic provided savings of 46,315 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to taking about 200,000 trucks off the road.

In parallel with the access infrastructures, the Port of Barcelona is moving forward in building the future Intermodal Logistics Terminal. This large railway node is a set of infrastructures that includes a ferroutage terminal. It also has twoa reception and dispatch terminal and another for loading and unloading, located in the old Llobregat riverbed, and a reception and dispatch terminal parallel to the current course of the river (Terminal Nou Llobregat).

The Port of Barcelona Intermodal Logistics Terminal, whichoperates under a dedicated budget, will occupy an area of 68 hectares and is one of the nodes of the Mediterranean Corridor.

These infrastructures and the new land accesses to the port of Barcelona will be built by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urbanism. The Port of Barcelona will finance ten rail sidings on the Barcelona-Zaragoza axis, which will involve a public investment of €600 and 30 million respectively. Together, it will increase the number of containers entering and/or leaving the port by rail. The port is thus moving closer to its environmental and efficiency objectives.  

4.      The Port of Barcelona won the 2022 ESPO Award on societal integration. What added value does the Port of Barcelona bring to the city and local community? What strategy have you developed in collaboration with the various stakeholders and the city to enhance maritime passenger links and connectivity within the city?   

I believe that the 2022 ESPO Award is a recognition of the transformation brought about by the Port of Barcelona to open up to the city, but it is also a recognition of the way it has been done, with the involvement of public institutions and the private sector, while constantly focusing on responding to the needs of citizens. And, most importantly for us, it is a recognition of the projects and actions that we are currently performing, which will make it possible to further open the Port to the people of Barcelona.

The project to transform the commercial port into a citizen's port - the Port Vell, or Old Port – which began 30 years ago, has been a success. Today this citizen's port is much appreciated by Barcelona residents and visitors alike, who bring it to life throughout the year. The Port Vell is today a mature and consolidated space able to attract key international events, such as the 2024 America's Cup.

We are now working to deepen the integration between the Port Vell and the city. One of the initiatives underway is the reorganisation of passenger traffic which involves closing two cruise terminals and one ferry terminal located in the Port Vell and building two new cruise terminals and a new ferry terminal on the Adossat wharf. The space freed up by these actions, covering about 18 hectares, will be opened to visitors and will allow us to take another step towards port-city integration.

Moving passenger traffic from the closest area of the city to a single wharf located in the commercial port improves the connectivity of the city as well as visitor connectivity. Trucks and cars from the Ferry terminal which was located at the old port caused serious problems and congested urban traffic flows. These problems were especially serious in summer when ferry services were more frequent. Removing this traffic from the old port will significantly improve urban traffic flow downtown. The new location of the passenger terminals will increase their efficiency and facilitate the growth of maritime passenger links, boosting the city’s connectivity. Visitor connectivity will also be enhanced by improving mobility services (taxi, bus services, etc.) that will result from concentrating passengers in one single location.

In addition to the added value brought by connectivity improvement, the local community will also take advantage of the new green and pedestrian areas built at the former ferry and cruise terminal sites. These areas will now be open for Barcelona’s citizens to enjoy leisure activities close to the sea and will further deepen the integration between the city and the port.

New port areas will be dedicated to developing a Blue Economy innovation hub and accommodating logistics training institutions (the first of which, the Institut de Logística de Barcelona) has already been opened in the World Trade Centre Barcelona (WTCB). The facility will grow once all passenger traffic is transferred from the current terminals within the WTCB itself. These new and added value activities (innovation, training, etc.) will further diversify the employment opportunities in the port area for the local community.

5.      The Port of Barcelona has an ambitious plan for the deployment of onshore power supply (OPS). Which terminals (segments) and how many wharves will be equipped with OPS? How will this be financed, and what stakeholders are involved in contributing to the deployment of OPS? Is there a user commitment to use the future installations?

Our Wharf Electrification Plan is one of the key projects we are promoting to halve CO2 emissions from port operations by 2030 and become a carbon-neutral port by 2050. Electrification will allow us to eliminate around 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year and significantly reduce other emissions that affect air quality, such as NOx, SOx and particulate matter (PM).

This Plan will make it possible to connect ships to the general electricity grid while they are berthed, using clean energy that is generated at the Port itself or is certified 100% renewable. The project has an overall forecast investment of €110 million and the Port has received funds from the EU in the framework of the Next Generation funds. 

This year we took a decisive step forward by awarding the pilot project at the BEST terminal, which includes the construction of the first OPS supply points, which will work at the Port's commercial docks. The tender has also been launched for the pilot project to supply ferries with electricity, which will take place at the Barcelona Ferry Terminal. Later we will extend the OPS network to the other container, ferry and cruise ship terminals. We aim to have operational OPS connections at the commercial port in the medium term.

It is worth mentioning that terminals and shipping companies have been extremely receptive, having been actively involved in developing and implementing the Wharf Electrification Plan. Last February we signed an agreement with Grupo Grimaldi to connect the ships of Trasmed GLE, a company belonging to the Italian group, to the OPS system. And in September, as part of Seatrade Cruise Med 2022, the Port of Barcelona and the companies Creuers del Port de Barcelona, Carnival Corp & PLC*, Royal Caribbean Group, MSC Cruises, NCL Holding LTD, Viking Cruises and Virgin Voyages signed a collaboration agreement to create a working group to speed up the connection of ships to the general electricity grid while berthed, using clean energy that is certified 100% renewable.

We are working to further extend this collaboration between the public and private sectors, which will enable our Port to meet the European requirements for the availability of shore power connections for ships by 2030.

6.      Have imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased significantly in Europe's ports since the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Has there been an impact for the Port of Barcelona? How do you see things evolving?

The ENAGAS LNG terminal in Barcelona has six storage tanks with a 760,000 cubic metres capacity and is one of the first LNG installations in Europe. The existence of these infrastructures and the policy being rolled out by the Port of Barcelona to offer discounts to lower-emission ships, including those powered by LNG, has made Barcelona the top port in Europe for bunkering operations in vessels operating with LNG, totalling more than 235 operations and more than 65,000 cubic metres supplied during 2021. The number of port calls by ships running on LNG is also rising.

The Port of Barcelona is currently betting on LNG as a transition fuel for ships, terminal machinery, and land transport, since it avoids the emission of pollutants (NOx, SOx, particulates PM-10 and PM2.5) and reduces CO2 emissions compared to conventional fuels. However, the Port is considering implementing new zero-emission fuels such as hydrogen in the medium and long term.

The war in Ukraine and the consequent disconnection of Europe from Russia's gas supplies has led the continent's terminals to fill their tanks in response to consumption demands. The Port of Barcelona terminal has also reached its maximum capacity and is ready to provide LNG to any countries that require it, as was already the case for Italy, for example. During the first ten months of 2022, LNG traffic in Barcelona has increased 40% compared to the same period the previous year.

7.      The greening of a port requires the help of all port stakeholders. What can the Port of Barcelona do to encourage all stakeholders to make their operations more sustainable?

We must propose and lead measures to reduce the impact of port and logistics activity on the environment. Many of the projects developed so far at the Port of Barcelona were included in the Air Quality Improvement Plan, launched in 2016, which has promoted a raft of measures in practically all areas of the Port. Most of these projects have been developed, tested and launched in terminals, shipping companies or logistics operators in the Port.

Other measures to minimise the impact of port activity on the environment are onshore power supply (OPS), which we have already discussed, and the Energy Transition Plan that aims to maximise energy savings and efficiency and renewable energy generation.

The Port of Barcelona has a peak renewable power installed capacity of 92 MW. To make the most of this renewable energy generation and reduce the return of surpluses to the grid, the port will create a network of energy communities in which the power generated can be shared among various port facilities and can be allocated to new uses, such as electric vehicle chargers and even supply to ships. Energy communities are systems that can produce renewable energy that is managed and consumed in its own facilities. The first energy community will be set up in the new Fishermen's Market of Barcelona, for which building work will begin in just a few months.

This new energy management model implies that the network is intelligent and continuously makes decisions according to production, demand, grid electricity prices, and other factors.

One example of the commitment of Port companies and terminals to this initiative was the recent commissioning of photovoltaic installations in the BEST container terminal, with an installed capacity of nearly 1 MWh, and in the Border Inspection Point, with an annual energy production of 300,000 kWh.

8.      You are an active member of ESPO. In your opinion, what is the added value of being part of an organisation like ESPO?

The Port of Barcelona has been deeply involved in ESPO for many years. We greatly value the possibility that ESPO brings us to learn from other European ports, to better understand European Union policy initiatives and allow the voice of ports to be heard. These tasks are at the core of ESPO activities, and they are very important for us.

Taking part in ESPO Committees gives us an in-depth knowledge of what European Institutions are working on in the port sector and enable our voice to be heard. We are convinced that the work ESPO is doing by representing the common interests and promoting common views of European ports gives them a unique strength that is vital for defending port interests within European institutions. One clear example of this is the involvement of ESPO in the latest European initiatives (such as the Port Regulation and Fit-for-55 initiatives) which has fostered dialogue with European policymakers and helped them to better understand the port sector.

And most importantly, ESPO has given us the opportunity to meet our colleagues from other European ports and share experiences and knowledge with them. Having the chance to exchange ideas about port projects is also a way to improve our own ports. We share many working hours with our colleagues, but also enjoy relaxing moments after our meetings, which is also very valuable!  

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