Sustainability Report shows progress, challenges at port of Antwerp


The port of Antwerp’s carbon footprint has remained stable despite an increase in freight, which is a crucial piece of good news from the new Sustainability Report

Energy consumption down

The port of Antwerp has reduced its nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions over the last two years, but it must still improve mobility and expand renewable energy sources. Those are the big takeaways from the port’s latest Sustainability Report.

The report is produced internally every two years and verified by an external auditor. It summarises economic, ecological and social indicators, pointing out areas where the port is doing well and also where it needs to improve.

Last year, total maritime freight was up more than 5% on the year before, the sixth record year in a row. “We are managing to keep our ecological footprint stable, despite larger freight volumes and industrial output,” said port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren. “Our energy consumption is down, and the number of green energy production units is growing steadily.”

The port community has pursued innovation as a way of meeting the challenges posed by climate change. Earlier this year, the port’s first large-scale industrial steam power network began operation, which is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 100,000 tons a year.

Digital transition

Onshore power supplies for ships at berth also help to reduce emissions within the port area. Since 2016, some 40 onshore power points have been installed on quays for tugboats, barges and river cruise boats.

The Carbon Capture & Utilisation project, meanwhile, sees port companies collaborating to investigate the possibilities for more environmentally friendly production of methane from CO2. Initiatives such as these are encouraging companies to experiment with new technologies, so that they can be scaled up in the longer term.

The port is also using digital transition projects as a lever for more sustainable logistics, in order to remain competitive on a worldwide scale. It signed on to NxtPort data-sharing platform last year to make logistical processes more efficient.

In 2021, an operational testing ground will be in place to encourage the development of new technologies

The port also has work to do in a number of areas. “We must tackle the problem of mobility,” said Peter Van de Putte of the Left Bank Development Corporation. “In particular, achieving a modal shift from road to transport by barge and rail is a priority for the near future.”

The port is also considering ways to transition to renewable energy sources and a more circular economy. Alternative fuels are already being made available, but the supply has yet to expand.

“LNG is an temporary solution, but the port community sees perspectives in methanol and hydrogen,” said the port in a statement. “In 2021, an operational testing ground will be in place to encourage the development of new technologies and upscale them in the port.”

To this end, the port has developed a Sustainability Award, handed out to the company with the most innovative project in the field of sustainability. All companies located at the port are eligible.

“As a large industrial area, we take responsibility for making a positive contribution to sustainable industrial entrepreneurship and minimising any impact we may cause,” says Stephan Vanfraechem, director of Alfaport Voka, a Flemish co-operative of port industries. “It pleases me to see that an increasing number of companies in the port area have put sustainability on the agenda. Numerous innovative projects have emerged in recent years. These are not only green projects such as investments in renewable energy, but also initiatives with people and society in mind such as sustainable employment.”

Photo courtesy port of Antwerp