Port of Newcastle signs up to global environmental port standard

A fully-loaded dry bulker exits the Port of Newcastle; the port is the first in Oceania to sign up to the global environmental management system for ports run by EcoPorts. (Photo: supplied by Port of Newcastle).

One of the world’s largest coal export ports, the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, has announced it is committing to the EcoPorts global environmental and sustainability standard.

The port says that it was granted membership of the EcoPorts Network, which is said to operate the only Environmental Management Standard specific to the global port sector.

There are 120 ports in the EcoPorts global network, but there no ports in either South East Asia or Oceania that are fully certified under EcoPort’s “Port Environmental Review System,” which is independently tested by international marine class society, Lloyd’s Register.

Newcastle is working to gain that certification. The port’s environmental adviser Jackie Spiteri told FreightWaves that the port had finished the Self Diagnosed Method audit stage. Spiteri also gave some insight into why the port has signed up to reach the EcoPorts standard.

“Port of Newcastle is pleased to be part of a global network of ports operating within an established environmental and sustainability framework that understands and actively addresses the complex aspects of port operations. We not only commit to meeting EcoPort’s world’s-best practice standards, but will work with other ports across the region to champion the environmental and sustainability benefits available for the maritime industry,” Spiteri says.

She adds that, “we’re conscious that, while we’re working to reduce our own emissions and environmental impact, there are other factors outside our direct control. Signing-up to the EcoPorts network enables Newcastle to tap into the expertise of other ports around the world who face similar challenges. We hope to benefit from the experience of leading ports across the world that are further ahead on the journey. We want our systems and processes to be aligned with the best in the world. Becoming an EcoPorts member provides greater accountability and transparency about our journey to being more sustainable. It also helps us identify initiatives that have worked overseas to encourage all parties to play their part in reducing a port’s overall environmental impact.”

In attempting to meet the EcoPorts standard, the port is seeking to improve its efficiency, reduce emissions and minimise its environmental impact. Spiteri gives some examples of current and future initiatives of the port to reduce its environmental footprint.

Firstly, the port is gathering data about power consumption throughout the port following the installation of 25 smart meters; the data will be used to inform management about potential renewable energy projects.

The port has also switched to ultra-low sulfur-content diesel for all marine operations. Burning high sulfur content fuel can be quite harmful both to human health and to the local environment. Burning high sulfur fuel creates sulfur dioxide and other oxides of sulfur, and is a precursor to the creation of particulate matter. Breathing in sulfur dioxide and particulate matter can be very harmful to human and animal lungs and respiratory system. Suitably high concentrations of sulfur dioxide can create acid rain, which is very damaging to plant life in forests and agricultural crops. It is also harmful to life in river systems.

Newcastle has spent A$600,000 (U.S.$430,000) to modify the engines in its marine dredger so as to reduce emissions. There was a 16% reduction in diesel consumption between 2017 and 2018 and a 60% reduction in lube oil consumption, Spiteri says.

She adds that the 1968-built shiploader at Kooragang Berth 2 has a “power consumption… you would expect of a machine its age.” A new A$33m (US$23.7m) shiploader has been commissioned and is being built. It uses “significantly less power” and because it is more efficient it should lead to faster ship turnaround times.

Other landside improvements are being planned. For instance, following an energy audit, a port-wide lighting efficiency upgrade strategy is being developed. The port’s offices are due to move this year to a modern facility and will receive an energy-efficient fit-out. “This is important given the office is in continuous use to support the port’s 24/7 operations,” Spiteri adds.

ECO Sustainable Logistics Chain Foundation is the contact point for non-European ports and terminals that are possibly interested in joining EcoPorts. Its chairman, Herman Journée, says that EcoPorts was “developed by ports for ports”.

“EcoPorts PERS Certified ports combine improvement of the environmental impact of their operations and risk prevention with business improvement and improved contacts with authorities,” Journée says.

EcoPorts was set up in 1997. Today is is integrated into the European Sea Ports Organisation, a pan-European trade association for ports. EcoPorts has 101 members in 24 different countries. There are 512 Self Diagnosed Method entries and there are 32 ports that have reached EcoPorts’ Port Environmental Review System.

EcoPorts Self Diagnosed Method requires ports to work through a checklist and identify environmental risks. Members can then benchmark their score against the average and seek expert review, advice and recommendations. After the Self Diagnosed Method has been completed, then a port can move on to the next step. And that is the Port Environment Review System.

It incorporates the requirements of ISO 14001, which sets out the criteria for an environmental management standard, and it is also port-specific as it is aligned with the recommendations of the European Sea Ports Organisation. Implementation is independently reviewed by Lloyd’s Register and certification is valid for two years.

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Jim Wilson, Australia Correspondent

Sydney-based journalist and photojournalist, Jim Wilson, is the Australia Correspondent for FreightWaves. Since beginning his journalism career in 2000, Jim has primarily worked as a business reporter, editor, and manager for maritime publications in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. He has won several awards for logistics-related journalism and has had photography published in the global maritime press. Jim has also run publications focused on human resources management, workplace health and safety, venture capital, and law. He holds a degree in law and legal practice.