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Green Deal will bring opportunities and challenges to European ports

Ports and terminals can contribute significantly to reducing total transport emissions

Ports and their wider industrial ecosystems can make the Green Deal happen. But investment needs to be targeted wisely

EUROPEAN port operators expect ports to play a significant role in the European Union’s Green Deal, but investment in infrastructure will need to be precisely targeted, according to the Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminal.

Ports had the potential to evolve into “industrial ecosystems” which represented a “fantastic opportunity” to attract industries and manufacturing centres into the vicinity of ports, it said.

“Many port activities and related investments directly or indirectly contribute to making the Green Deal happen. Multimodal logistic infrastructures connecting ports to the hinterland will certainly support the transformation of the role of ports be it on the seaside or on the hinterland side.

“They will also play an important role in allowing goods to leave ports quickly thus preventing congestion and lowering emissions at terminal yards.”

Many terminals had already developed ambitious emission reduction targets and large logistics operators were also being proactive in their efforts.

But the federation warned more needed to be done by other actors of the chain.

“Even if higher costs of zero-carbon transport will be a challenge for the whole freight transport chain, they represent an important step towards climate neutrality,” it said. “What will also be crucial is the public support to stimulate zero-carbon freight transport, incentive schemes, charging and refuelling infrastructure, and mitigation of the greenhouse gas impacts of ships, trucks, trains and barges coming to ports.”

It said there were already expectations from the port sector with respect to investments in alternative fuels infrastructure and in terms of support to the decarbonisation of maritime transport.

These expectations should be mirrored by “significant financial funding” for the needed EU-based infrastructure.

“If the commission favours the establishment of a dedicated European investment fund that will be based on the revenues from a maritime EU emissions trading system or an emission levy, then it will be important that part of those revenues is reinvested in the European maritime sector to enable the decarbonisation of shipping and in infrastructures for the deployment and use of sustainable alternative fuels in ports.”

Ports were already facing significant challenges to remain competitive and could not solve the problems on their own, it added. Expectations would need to be tempered by reality, particularly into additional port capacity.

“Building new capacities must be correlated to trade growth figures and the effective utilisation of existing port capacities by port customers,” said Feport. “European ports are faced with so many expectations, it will be important, prior to any discussion regarding the building of new capacities, to check whether a return on investment for public and private port stakeholders, member states and wider communities is clearly foreseen.”

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