Port pro of the month: Thomas Haber Borch (DEN)

29 April 2024

This month, our Secretary General, visited Aarhus and met with Thomas Haber Borch the CEO of Port of Aarhus. Port of Aarhus was hosting the Conference of the Danish Port Association. In what follows, you will read more about sustainability and digitalisation in this Danish Port, as well as investments in the port sector. Discover the other interesting topics our port pro of the month addressed below!

Thomas Haber Borch CEO of Port of Aarhus.

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

The Port of Aarhus is the largest commercial port in Denmark. We handle more than 70 percent of the container cargo in the country, and our location on the East Coast of Jutland makes us a vital hub for trade in Northern Europe.

We work hard every day to become the most sustainable port in the Baltic Sea and carbon neutral in 2030, which of course is no easy task. This vision often requires being first movers. Sometimes with electrification of specialised vehicles and other times with large projects like shore power systems. I am proud of how far we have come, even though there is a long way to go.

Among other challenges is the global situation where conflicts unfortunately have risen in multiple places in the world in the last few years. First and foremost, this is terrible for the people in the areas involved, but it does create uncertainty in global trade as well.

What is your long-term vision for the Port of Aarhus? What are the main investment projects for the next few years? Can you briefly describe the importance of these investment projects for the port and the city?

In the coming years we plan to expand the port with 840.000 square meters. The Port of Aarhus is the most important commercial port in Denmark, and we need more space to meet the demand. Ship freight is the greenest way to move cargo, and with a larger and more efficient port, we can further support the green transition as well as help businesses grow.

In 2030 we want to be carbon neutral. I believe that it is indeed possible, even if it will be challenging to reach that goal.

We read that the Port has applied for funding to establish a shore power facility at the container terminal. Please, could you further explain us this project? What will be the impact of such initiative for the port?

Yes, we have applied for funding from CEF within the EU. Shore power is an important step towards sustainable shipping traffic. We would like to push for that transition.

One of the biggest impacts, when the ships can turn off their diesel-generators, will be local. Ports are often located near large cities, and the shore power can supply electricity to vessels while avoiding noise and air pollution usually occurring with internal combustion engines (ICE). For the citizens near ports this is an obvious win. And when the green transition happens locally, it also means something globally.

The Port of Aarhus is the largest commercial port in Denmark and as you state on your website: “this title comes with a responsibility”. Could you elaborate more on the work done on sustainable transformation to which you refer?

At Port of Aarhus, we are not afraid to be first movers when it comes to sustainability. Last year, along with companies Ford and Knebel Drilling, we developed the first fully electric mooring vehicle. The same year we inaugurated Denmark's first shore power facility for cruise ships. We're also going to do something for the marine environment, which isn't doing well right now. But there, too, we want to take responsibility.

Hopefully other ports - Danish and otherwise - will find it easier to invest in the same green initiatives, when they see how well it has worked out for us.

Being the largest commercial port in Denmark does come with a responsibility. And we take it very seriously.

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

As mentioned, we inaugurated the first shore power facility in Denmark this last summer. Our experience is that most cruise lines will use shore power if offered, but to put in some extra incentive, we have decided to add an extra fee per gross ton for ships that do not to connect to shore power at our cruise pier.

We have also applied for funding to carry out a study to investigate how we can build shore power facilities for both larger and smaller container ships. Smaller ships do not need the same expensive infrastructure to receive power, so by supplying multiple shore power options, the smaller vessels can use cheaper infrastructure onboard, giving the shipping companies more incentive to invest in it.

The EU aims to have a climate-neutral economy by 2050. Are you setting also your own climate goals? How can the Port of Aarhus also be part of the solution and contribute to decarbonise the surrounding economy and society? 

We are, as one of the only ports in the world, enrolled in the Science Based Targets Initiative which is a collaborative effort that helps companies set greenhouse gas reduction goals aligned with climate science, aiming to limit global warming. We want to be the most sustainable port in the Baltic Sea, and we aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.

As for being part of the solution outside of ourselves, we now measure scope 3 emissions and consciously use those measurements when choosing our partners. This also plays a big part in the coming expansion of our port, where we are willing to pay for a more expensive contractor, if they can emit less CO2 in the process.

Do you believe it is important to put an emphasis on multimodal transport? Are there measures taken in the port of Aarhus to make multimodal transport more attractive and more competitive?

At the port of Aarhus, we have invested in railway connections directly from the quay to the rest of Denmark and Europe. There will also be investments in railways in the upcoming port expansion. We continuously explore opportunities to improve multimodal transport. We believe it's crucial for creating a more sustainable and efficient transport. 

European ports are increasingly investing in digital solutions to improve the efficiency of the logistics chain and port operations. Has the Port of Aarhus taken any initiatives towards digitalisation?

We get new IT-systems regularly to increase our efficiency as well as our operational reliability. We make sure to use modern digital solutions whether it is in finance, land operations, maritime operations or anywhere else. We also find it important to stay updated to ensure our security. We have invested in both security measures and employees to handle cyber security. We didn't have that a few years ago, but we expect it to be the future.

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

For most of my career, I have worked in transportation and logistics. I have always been fascinated by working in an industry that means so much to society. That's also why I'm happy to be part of Port of Aarhus. Ports play an important role for all of us.

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

On a sunny day, I would take you to the top of the larger cranes on our container terminal. With the ocean on one side and a view over Aarhus on the other, the views are unbeatable.

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