International port community commits in Antwerp to sustainable growth and development

Thursday 22 03 2018

Nearly 1000 ports and port-related companies committed themselves in Antwerp to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. More specifically they will focus on five practical areas:

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.

“Ports all over the world are aiming for a future built around sustainable economic models,” declares Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority and also the host and keynote speaker at the event held under the auspices of the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP). “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,” he concludes.

Other speakers at the WPSP event included HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium, one of the worldwide SDG ambassadors, Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation, and Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN’s climate conference.  

Historic charter
The commitments made by the international port community are recorded in the historic Charter of the World Ports Sustainability Program, which today received the signature of the following founding fathers: 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, and IAPH, the International Association of Ports and Harbours, who together with Antwerp Port Authority took the initiative to set up the WPSP. Together these organisations represent nearly 1000 ports and port-related companies and bodies from more than 100 countries around the world.

The seeds of the WPSP were sown already in 2008 by IAPH, the International Association of Ports & Harbours, with the launch of the World Ports Climate Initiative. On that occasion 55 major international ports committed themselves to measures for tackling climate change. “This resulted in among other things practical initiatives such as the Environmental Ship Index, onshore power for seagoing ships and LNG as a bunkering fuel,” explains Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH managing director and WPSP coordinator.

Whereas ten years earlier the focus was mainly on the climate, the area of concern has now been broadened to include socially responsible enterprise. “World ports too face the dilemma of reconciling sustainable development with further industrial challenges,” Verhoeven continues. “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.”

From charter to practice
As of today the charter can be consulted at The website will shortly be expanded to include among other things a library of best practices, together with a portal to projects and initiatives by port-related organisations around the world. “We see the website acting as a sort of think tank and breeding ground for new projects. Finally, WPSP will also issue periodic reports on the progress made within the port sector,” added Verhoeven on behalf of IAPH, which will be responsible for coordinating the programme.

Antwerp host city
It is no coincidence that Antwerp hosted the WPSP and so has become the cradle of a historic charter. “The Antwerp community has played a pioneering role when it comes to sustainability. We pursue a very active policy, and there are many inspiring examples to be found within our port platform,” says Eric de Deckere, the Port Authority’s Sustainable Transition manager and CSR Professional of the Year. “Our ambition is nothing less than to assume the role of sustainable leader in the Hamburg – Le Havre range. The fact that Antwerp was chosen as host city for this international event shows that we are on the right way,” he concludes.


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