The European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO), founded in 1993 and based in Brussels, represents European seaport authorities and encourages ports to be proactive in protecting the environment by:

  • Providing guidance and preparing recommendations on environmental management (Green Guide)
  • Drafting guidelines on specific issues (e.g. nature protection)
  • Developing and promoting tools and methodologies for port environmental management (EcoPorts tools)
  • Providing the platform for port cooperation and sharing of environmental experience (EcoPorts network)
  • Visibility and credit to frontrunners (ESPO Award, EcoPorts labeling and certification)

Policies regarding sustainability are important to consider that ports are different in terms of location, size and governance (privatized, public, small ports, tourism-oriented, hubs). However, they share common environmental priorities. The top ten environmental priorities of European Ports for 2016 are:

  1. Air quality
  2. Energy consumption
  3. Noise
  4. Relationship with local community
  5. Garbage/ port waste
  6. Ship waste
  7. Port development
  8. Water quality
  9. Dust
  10. Dredging operations

Air quality and climate change is a top priority of the European ports considering that the majority of them are in close proximity to urban areas. Ports, coastal cities and their local communities are amongst the most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from global warming. At the same time, air quality is a top priority with 90% of European ports being in close proximity to urban areas. Over the course of the last 15 months, we have welcomed two tremendous developments in environmental protection; the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the introduction of the global 0.5% sulphur cap on marine fuels in 2020. Developed and developing countries agreed to take immediate action to address the global threat of climate change and keep the increase of global temperature below two degrees, while IMO’s new measure is expected to bring enormous environmental and public health benefits.

A recent study has found that the introduction of this measure will prevent 250,000 premature deaths worldwide.

Forthcoming shipping regulations aim to tackle air pollution and climate change issues. ESPO supports that IMO is by far the best place to address shipping’s CO2 emissions but at the same time, the EU needs to pile up pressure on the IMO to deliver on time, meaning that next year IMO along with Member States need to submit to the Paris Agreement stock-taking process a provisional target accompanied by short-term measures. Regarding air pollution, the 0.1% suphlur limit has been applied since 2015 in ECAs and we expect the establishment of a new NOx ECA area in the Baltic and North Sea, which is going to be formally approved by the next MEPC. Next to this development, we have the deployment of the EU Directive 2014/94 on alternative fuels which lays down that Member States ‘’shall ensure, through their national policy frameworks, that an appropriate number of refuelling points for LNG are put in place at maritime ports to enable LNG inland waterway vessels or sea-going ships to circulate throughout the TEN-T Core Network by 31 December 2025 at the latest. Member States shall ensure that the need for shore-side electricity supply for inland waterway vessels and seagoing ships in maritime and inland ports is assessed in their national policy frameworks. Such shore-side electricity supply shall be installed as a priority in ports of the TEN-T Core Network, and in other ports, by 31 December 2025, unless there is no demand and and the costs are disproportionate to the benefits, including environmental benefits.”

The European ports have already provided green services to vessels; 20% of them have already provided high voltage OPS services; 22% have provided LNG bunkering facilities and; 62% have applied for environmentally differentiated port charges for vessels. EcoPorts is another major initiative taken by ESPO.  EcoPorts network, initiated in 1997 in the year the Kyoto Protocol was signed, has become a successful initiative for ports to raise awareness, exchange information and promote better environmental management. After 20 years, this initiative has transformed into a solid network of around 100 European ports within ESPO. It has provided a system developed by ports for ports, specifically designed to put ESPO’s policies into practice by encouraging the free exchange of experience on environmental issues among its members. Completing the Self Diagnosis Method (SDM) is the “passport” to EcoPorts. By filling in a checklist of more than 250 questions, a port is able to assess its environmental management programme against the benchmark based on EcoPorts members’ performance and international standards. Each participating port can see its performance and assess improvement in a fully confidential way since individual data is not published. At the same time, ESPO is able to provide aggregated data, an at-a-glance summary of the environmental management performance of its member ports.

The second EcoPorts’ tool, the Port Environmental Review System (PERS), has firmly established its reputation as the only port sector specific environmental management standard. Although there is plenty of guidance available on general environmental management, the often highly specialised nature of the environmental challenges in the port area that port authorities face, means that a “custom-made” approach is absolutely vital. While incorporating the main generic requirements of recognised environmental management standards, PERS, which is independently certified by Lloyd’s Register, is adapted to deliver effective port environmental management. PERS is really the flagship product of EcoPorts with 25 ports being currently PERS certified.

We are celebrating 20 years of EcoPorts aiming to strengthen the network and assist more European ports in being at the frontline taking initiatives to protect the environment, improve public health and address the challenges of climate change. Green your port, Join EcoPorts!

Above text is an edited article of Sotiris Raptis presentation during 2017 GREEN4SEA Conference & Awards

You may view his presentation video by clicking here


Click here to view all the presentations of 2017 GREEN4SEA Conference & Awards


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  GREEN4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.


Sotiris Raptis, Senior Policy Advisor for Environment and Safety, EcoPorts Coordinator, ESPO

Sotiris joined ESPO in November 2016 after working in the aviation and shipping team at T&E where he was responsible for the cleaner shipping campaign. Previously, he worked in the European Parliament  as a Policy Advisor on Transport, Climate Change and Environment for MEP Kriton Arsenis, some of his key files being CO2 emissions of the shipping sector, biofuels and indirect land-use change, as well as the revision of Water Framework directive and Environmental Impact Assessment directive. A qualified lawyer, Sotiris hails from northern Greece and speaks Greek and English. He studied at the University of Thessaloniki School of Law, the University of Athens School of Law as well as at the King’s College London Centre of European Law. Sotiris was awarded European Citizens’ Prize 2008 of the European Parliament as member of “G700” blog for promoting intergenerational justice. He loves good food and reading and his passions include politics and hiking.