Last week on Thursday, nearly 1,000 ports and port-related enterprises met in Antwerp, Belgium to sign the charter of the new World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP).

By agreeing to the WPSP charter, the signatories agreed to commit themselves to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, especially a set of five goals closely related to port operations:

1. developing robust infrastructure, ready to face the challenges of the future;
2. climate & energy, with the emphasis on initiatives that contribute to achieving the objectives of the Paris climate agreement;
3. societal integration, by improving relations between ports and cities;
4. safety and security, including cyber-security, and
5. rolling out transparent, ethical policies and management.

The WPSP was founded by a group of leading ports associations, including ESPO, the European Sea Ports Organisation; AIVP, the Worldwide Network of Port Cities; AAPA, the American Association of Port Authorities; PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure; the Antwerp Port Authority; and the IAPH, the International Association of Ports and Harbours, which set the initiative in motion in 2008 with the launch of the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI). Patrick Verhoeven, the IAPH’s managing director and the WPSP’s coordinator, said that the original climate-focused effort has already helped create tangible outcomes like the Environmental Ship Index, the uptake of LNG bunkering and the increasing availability of shore power for commercial vessels.

Verhoeven said that over the decade since the WPCI was launched, it has become clear that ports will need to broaden their focus to include socially responsible enterprise, not just environmental sustainability. “World ports too face the dilemma of reconciling sustainable development with further industrial challenges,” Verhoeven said. “It was therefore necessary for the WPCI to develop into the WPSP, an international programme that will make a practical contribution towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.”

Antwerp Port Authority CEO Jacques Vandermeiren hosted the WPSP signing event and delivered the keynote speech. “Ports all over the world are aiming for a future built around sustainable economic models,” he said. “This transition process includes the elements that will help us to respond not only to the global but also the local challenges currently facing us, such as climate change, mobility, digitalisation, migration and societal integration.”

Other notable speakers included Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and AAPA CEO Kurt Nagle (via teleconference). The WPSP conference program continues Friday with a set of workshops to help translate the charter’s broad goals into concrete priorities.


Photo: Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium