Barcelona Container Port Photo: Davies / CC-BY-SA

The Port of Barcelona is a participating incentive provider in the World Ports Climate Initiative's Environmental Ship Index.

Mitigation and moving towards low carbon waterborne transport infrastructure

All sectors must play their part in climate change mitigation. The waterborne transport infrastructure sector is no exception.

Port and waterway infrastructure and operations typically account for only a very small proportion of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the shipment of a particular consignment. The most significant proportion by far is associated with the sea voyage, and a varying amount with connecting transport.

It is nonetheless important that the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure take steps to minimise the emissions associated with their activities if they are to contribute to the ‘less-than-2-degrees’ pathway.

The associations represented on the the Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership recognise the importance – and the urgency – of implementing effective mitigation measures and of moving towards low carbon infrastructure.

Coalition members further acknowledge the need for innovation alongside conventional emissions-reduction measures: for example initiatives aimed at improving integration to increase energy efficiency or at creating carbon sinks in coastal areas by Working with Nature.

As with other sectors, such innovation has the potential to bring associated social, employment and economic opportunities.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 17:52

Port call optimization solutions to reduce emissions start gaining industry traction

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Just-In-Time (JIT) Arrival guide submitted to the IMO as information paper to support IMO resolution that calls on cooperation between ports and shipping on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships

With multiple pilot and roll out projects underway at leading world cargo ports such as Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Los Angeles to optimize vessel port calls , the need for a standardised approach to data availability and sharing with ships calling at these ports is growing.

Captain Ben Van Scherpenzeel, Chair of Taskforce Port Call Optimization commented : "Ship-shore data availability and data sharing around port calls must be supported by robust standards developed by robust organizations in the long run to make GHG emissions reductions a reality. Ship owner-operators will simply not be able to work optimally with different data sets amongst all the ports their fleets call at. Equally, a one-size-fits- all global solution is not the answer. The answer lies in a common port call process framework, using existing contractual, hydrographic, and data definition standards."

Emissions impact - vessel waiting times at anchorage

During the latest Taskforce meeting, one of the industry's leading AIS vessel tracking solutions provider MarineTraffic provided some sobering data. Now capable of measuring the entire port call process of different vessel types at berth level, they calculated time at anchorage outside ports around the globe of the 200,000 vessels they track averaging between just under 4% and over 9% of average call time.

Unifying an industry approach that connects ship with shore

The just-in-time (JIT) Arrival Guide, an initiative up until now of the Global Industry Alliance to support low carbon shipping*, has just been submitted as an information paper for the next meeting of the IMO Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75) at the end of March.

The purpose of this JIT Arrival Guide is to provide information to ports on how to facilitate JIT Arrival of ships – with a view to reducing GHG emissions by optimising the port call process. It also corresponds with the four action lines of the IMO Resolution submitted last year on cooperation between ports and shipping on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. The resolution has been co-sponsored by a number of member governments, various shipping industry associations as well as the World Wildlife Fund.

The JIT Arrival Guide also follows the recent publication last year of the latest version of the Taskforce's Port Information Manual. The manual, developed over a five-year period by shipowners, ports, and other industry players in theTaskforce, is designed for application in all ports. It includes data definitions sourced from existing standards within the shipping and supply chain industry to allow nautical and operational systems to speak with one another optimally.

From theory into practice - ports and terminals making concerted efforts to optimise port calls in practice

At the recent Taskforce meeting in Rotterdam, several existing port call optimization solutions either in pilot phase or in full operation were showcased. One such solution has been developed by the Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center. It is built on an existing platform which shares data between 300 different parties in the port community. This also including EDI links with ports such as Rotterdam where the approaching vessel made its previous call. Synchronisation of nautical data with fleet support/control centers means that arrival of cruise and container ships along the berth side can be correctly scheduled and synchronised.

These kind of solutions are not being piloted in isolation. Other ports such as Algeciras, Houston and Felixstowe use the PortXchange solution, whilst a liquid bulk terminal is trialling the Qronoport system elsewhere in Antwerp.

UNCTAD Report highlights and lowlights digitalising the Port Call Process

In early February, UNCTAD, which is the main U.N. body dealing with trade, investment and development issues released its own report on this pressing issue with the support on an industry level. These include Port CDM who were the architects behind the STM validation project, Intelligent Cargo Systems, the global data standards provider GS1, BIMCO, MSC, the Republic of Korea's Smart Navigation Project and global intelligence provider IHS Markit.

The paper, entitled Digitalizing the Port Call Process, identifies the principal tensions and opportunities arising that are impacting the inevitable and ongoing digitalization process that is underway in the maritime sector. It makes no bones about the main challenge : "One of the dilemmas with digitalization, standardization and data sharing in the port operations environment is the absence of over-arching bodies like the IMO that can strongly influence standardization. Tension also exists between catering for local requirements and sensitivities including existing infrastructure to overcome, and at the same time being able to enable those involved to connect and be connected to the world."

Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH's Managing Director commented : "Whilst it is not the ultimate game-changer, Port Call Optimisation definitely is one of the low-hanging fruits that will help decarbonising the maritime sector. Its multiple advantages include increased safety and efficiency, so there is really no excuse for stakeholders in the nautical chain why they should not to get involved and make it happen."

Note : During the upcoming IAPH 2020 World Ports Conference in Antwerp next month, the panel session “From Concept to Reality: How Ports Are Taking the Lead in Data Exchange for Port Call Optimisation” will combine both Energy Transition and Data Collaboration Streams in one single session.

About IAPH (

Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) is a non-profit-making global alliance of 170 ports and 140 port-related organisations covering 90 countries. Its member ports handle more than 60 percent of global maritime trade and around 80 percent of world container traffic. IAPH has consultative NGO status with several United Nations agencies. In 2018, IAPH established the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP). Guided by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to unite sustainability efforts of ports worldwide, encouraging international cooperation between all partners involved in the maritime supply chain. WPSP ( covers five main areas of collaboration: energy transition, resilient infrastructure, safety and security, community outreach and governance.

* Until now, the Global Industry Alliance has operated under the IMO GloMEEP programme, and is connected to the work of the International Task Force Port Call Optimisation. Moving ahead, further work on port call optimization will become part of the IMO's GreenVoyage-2050 project in collaboration with the Government of Norway.