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GreenPort Congress 2022: Managing the energy transition amid economic turbulence

A turbulent economic and political climate has made green investments more challenging but also more urgent than ever, delegates to GreenPort Congress 2022 heard on day one.

Ports face an existential challenge in delivering the energy transition while simultaneously managing the fall-out from waves of crises, delegates at GreenPort Congress & Cruise 2022 have heard. While the Covid pandemic, the Ukraine invasion and global inflation have put pressure on port operations and investment plans, the need to decarbonise – and to provide the infrastructure for maritime decarbonisation – is increasingly urgent.

Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General, European Sea Port Organisation urged delegates to channel Winston Churchill and “never waste a good crisis”. The challenges over the past three years have highlighted the strategic and critical role of ports, she said, and operators should look to capitalise on this newfound appreciation as they accelerate their investments in the energy transition – and the investments they seek from other stakeholders.

The ambitions of container liner owner A.P.Moller-Maersk illustrate the urgency of the transition and the need for rapid investment. Despite rising energy and material prices (and hence higher prices for green fuel production and shipbuilding), the company has added more methanol-fuelled containerships to its newbuilding programme in the past two months, with 18 due to be in service by 2024.

Captain Sameer Bhatnagar, Senior Decarbonisation Integration Manager – Decarb Business Development & Innovation, A.P. Moller-Maersk, urged port operators to ‘lean out’ in investing in the required methanol supply infrastructure rather than waiting for regulators to take a lead.

Captain Sameer Bhatnagar, Senior Decarbonisation Integration Manager – Decarb Business Development & Innovation, A.P. Moller-Maersk

“Supply infrastructure has to radically change,” he noted. “This is proving a challenge and needs commitment across the supply chain, including energy suppliers and ports.” His concluding slide, simply stated. ‘There is no Planet B!’

Ports are responding in varying ways. The economic challenges of the energy transition were one of the prime reasons for the merger that formed the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, host of GreenPort Congress & Cruise 2022, said Port of Antwerp-Bruges General Director Policy & Strategy Rik Goetinck. The combined organisation’s greater leverage is epitomised by plans to develop the region as a ‘Hydrogen Valley’, with huge hydrogen import and eventually production capacities.

Congress chairman Christopher Wooldridge – Science Coordinator, EcoPorts EcoSLC, and Visiting Research Fellow, Cardiff University – summed up the urgency by pointing to the UN definition of sustainability as meeting present needs without compromising future generations.

“We need ideas and the clock is ticking,” he said. “The future generations are stacking up.”

After an informative day of learning and networking delegates at day one of GreenPort Congress & Cruise attended the conference dinner at ABC-toren based within the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and were greeted with a packed dining room with delegates from all corners of the globe rubbing shoulders and establishing new friendships and professional contacts.

After an uplifting welcome from Piet Vandenkerkhove, Customer Relations Maritime Business/Market Intelligence/Accountmanager Cruise & Bulk, Antwerp-Bruges, delegates had the opportunity to hear about one of the next GreenPort venues in February 2023 from Jackie Spiteri, Managing Director, Sustainable ESG representing the first host port in the Oceanic region, Port of Newcastle.

The inaugural GreenPort Congress Oceania 2023 will be held for the first time in Newcastle, Australia from 15 – 16 February 2023 and concludes with a half day port tour on 17 February.

The GreenPort Congress brings together the whole port community and is a platform for the exchange of information on the latest in sustainable environmental practice.
Source: GreenPort Cruise & Congress

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