Ports and climate change, Part 3: How World Ports Sustainability Program is driving the sustainability efforts of ports worldwide with Antonis Michail, IAPH

Vaisala maritime blog: Ports and climate change, part 3
Antonis Michail, IAPH
Antonis Michail
Weather & Environment

Climate change is already exposing ports to more extreme weather occurrences and these can cause millions in damage in repair and downtime, in addition to risking worker safety.

This blog series focuses on the topic of ports and climate change. Vaisala interviews maritime and port professionals who present interesting views on how ports could adapt their operations to avoid weather-related problems before they happen, how ports could be better prepared for climate change related risks and how to mitigate the effects of unavoidable events by using smart technology.

Part 3: How World Ports Sustainability Program is driving the sustainability efforts of ports worldwide Interviewee: Dr. Antonis Michail, Technical Director International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) and World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP)

Interview questions:

  1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and your interest and connection to sustainability and climate-change topics?

    I am an engineer in background specialized on sustainability and environmental management in ports at master and PhD level. I have joined IAPH in 2018 as Technical Director of its Policy and Strategy unit and its World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP). As such, I am coordinating the work of the IAPH Technical Committees on Climate and Energy, Data Collaboration and Risk and Resilience and overseeing the progress of the IAPH working groups, joint collaborative initiatives with third parties, and overall WPSP progress.

    Before IAPH, I was working for the European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) as Senior Policy Advisor (2009-2016). My involvement with environmental management of ports started back in 2003 when first joining the EcoPorts project, loyally serving the development of its tools and network since and until 2016. I am a Greek national and after having lived, worked and studied in Portugal, the Netherlands, UK and Belgium, I am currently based in my hometown Athens.

  2. What is the mission of World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) established in 2018 and what are the key milestones it has accomplished so far?

    The primary mission of WPSP since its establishment in 2018 is to assist world ports in integrating the UN 2030 Sustainability Agenda and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in port governance and management.

    Since the start, we have created the WPSP Portfolio, an online database of port projects covering all areas of sustainability in line with the broad spectrum of the 17 UN SDGs. This has proven to be a very successful exercise with a current content of more than 240 projects from 110 ports in more than 45 countries. 90 of these projects address climate and energy demonstrating the significance of these topics for world ports.

    Collectively, the content of the database provides an overview of the world ports efforts on sustainability. On that basis, in partnership with UNCTAD back in 2019 we have produced a blueprint on the potential port contribution in achieving each of the 17 UN SDGs. Building further on this and in order to serve the WPSP mission, we have officially launched Port Endeavor in 2021. Port Endeavor is a sustainability training game that assists port managers to link the 17 UN SDGs with real day-to-day sustainability challenges faced by ports. We have co-developed the concept together with the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and we have partnered since with both UNCTAD and APEC (Antwerp & Flanders Port Training Center) for undertaking Port Endeavor training sessions globally. Port Endeavor has been integrated in the UNCTAD TrainForTrade program and is nowadays available in English, French and Spanish.

  3. How are climate change related topics considered in WPSP and what do you see are the biggest areas of improvement globally for ports when adapting to climate change related risks?

    Climate and Energy is a major strategic focus area for both IAPH and WPSP. Our overall work on Climate is coordinated by the IAPH Technical Committee on Climate and Energy that groups together experts from ports and IAPH associate members worldwide.

    On the policy side, IAPH is actively involved representing the world ports views in the political process over decarbonizing shipping at IMO. On the more practical side of things, the IAPH working groups on Clean Marine Fuels and the Environmental Ship Index proactively develop tools and methodologies to enhance the role of ports in enabling / facilitating the decarbonization of maritime transport. We also maintain active partnerships with all major decarbonization initiatives such as those under the Global Maritime Forum, the International Chamber of Shipping, the Clean Energy Ministerial, and the World Ports Climate Action Program.

    When it comes to climate adaptation, we are partners of the Navigating a Changing Climate initiative (NaCC). As part of our NaCC involvement we have jointly undertaken in 2019 a survey on the impact of extreme weather events to port operations worldwide. The exercise established that the frequency and magnitude of such events is increasing and looked at costs and consequences in terms of damage, clean-up and additional maintenance costs, as well as those associated with closures, downtime and delays. As further recent studies clearly demonstrate, despite efforts and progress on climate mitigation, it is vital for ports to act to strengthen resilience and adapt their infrastructure and relevant operations to the changing climate. The new NaCC action plan that is currently being negotiated with the partners will be having a stronger focus on adaptation as a result.

    Overall, we are looking to increase our focus on climate adaptation which is admittedly an area where more focused action is needed by world ports. Even though 90 out of the 240 port projects in the WPSP Portfolio address Climate and Energy, only few of those tackle climate adaptation. On the positive side, we are observing lately an increase in the number and quality of such port initiatives being submitting to our database.

  4. What kind of key learnings related to mitigation and adaption to climate change has IAPH and WPSP gained so far and how can that be replicated across other continents?

    Capacity building is a central aim of IAPH for bringing together the world ports community and this is particularly the case on Climate and Energy given the magnitude of the challenge and fast pace of policy and technological advances.

    Through its regional workshops, its technical committee meetings, and WPSP, IAPH provides the fora where ports exchange experiences, inspire and assist each other. Furthermore, IAPH is partner to the IMO / Norway GreenVoyage2050 project that specifically tackles capacity building in decarbonizing maritime transport. As part of our involvement, we are co-developing port training packages on Onshore Power Supply and sustainable ports in the context of facilitating the energy transition of shipping.

  5. How do you see more advanced weather technologies assisting the management of climate change related risks for ports?

    The frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events are increasing globally as a consequence of climate change and such events have clear impact on port operations. Advanced weather technologies can provide more accurate and localized weather predictions that may be needed for safeguarding port operations and timely taking the necessary preventive measures.

  6. For ports that are considering investment in climate-resilient activities or related technologies, where would you recommend them to start?

    We want ports to be ambassadors of solutions and technologies they are testing and using. Through the WPSP Portfolio we are trying to do exactly that. We encourage ports to share their experiences with emerging advanced technologies and provide information and inspiration for peers to follow. As an industry association, we rely on the testimonials of our member ports in order to promote quality assured technical solutions.

    We are nowadays working towards putting in place another WPSP database where associate members of IAPH, largely consisting of companies providing solutions and services to ports, can share their innovative solutions and attract the interest of world ports facing respective challenges. This is in an effort to further promote innovation and matchmaking technology providers with interested ports to mutual benefit.

About IAPH

Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) is a non-profit-making global alliance of 170 ports and 140 port-related organisations covering 90 countries. Its member ports handle more than 60 percent of global maritime trade and around 80 percent of world container traffic. IAPH has consultative NGO status with several United Nations agencies, including the IMO. Through its knowledge base and access to regulatory bodies, IAPH aims to facilitate energy transition, accelerate digitalization and assist in improving overall resilience of its member ports in a constantly changing world. In 2018, IAPH established the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP). Guided by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to unite sustainability efforts of ports worldwide by sharing best practices through its project portfolio and collaborative partnerships.

Read more - Ports and Climate Change, Part 1: The state of play in European ports with Valter Sélen, ESPO
Read more - Ports and climate change, Part 2: Ports facing changing climatic risk with Michael Yarwood, TT Club