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ESPO Conference 2017 Inspires Ports On the Continent On Their Way to Decarbonisation

6th June 2017
Delegates attending ESPO annual conference held in Barcelona discuss the core topic: “Ports in a changing Climate, a Changing World”. Delegates attending ESPO annual conference held in Barcelona discuss the core topic: “Ports in a changing Climate, a Changing World”.

#ClimateChange - The European port industry gathered in Barcelona for ESPO’s annual conference entitled “Ports in a changing Climate, a Changing World”.

During the first of the two day conference (1 June), Alvaro Rodriguez, high level Climate Reality representative, inspired the audience with an eye opening presentation on the impacts of climate change and a positive message showing that solutions, the new zero-carbon technologies, are within reach.

In his opening speech that was followed by contributions they shared  best practices from the different stakeholders. These debates highlighted that ports are technology takers and require new technology to be available to make their contribution to decarbonisation.

The end of Day One marked the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Ecoports network, which clearly showed that ports’ pro-active engagement towards sustainability is well established and withstanding the test of time.

On Friday, the key note speeches of OECD/ITF’s port expert Olaf Merk and Professor Jonathan Holslag gave more than enough food for thought for a lively debate with different port executives on the current geo-political and world trade challenges and the strategic role of ports. During this debate, ports clearly highlighted that it is at all times important to maintain control over the strategic aspects of a port (in particular ownership of the land). Ports, however, do not wish to see any legislative intervention to limit investments in their ports.

European Commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, set the scene of the final conference roundtable by highlighting the Commission’s priorities for the maritime year: competitiveness, digitalisation and decarbonisation. She launched the European Ports Forum as a place to advise the Commission and to define and start joint initiatives. This was followed by a debate between Commissioner Bulc and MEP Knut Fleckenstein and different port executives on EU policy for ports, the need for investments in ports, on the role of a port authority and on the on-going mergers between European ports.

“This conference clearly showed that ports are willing and able to significantly contribute to decarbonisation as and when new technologies make this possible. We very much appreciated the presence of the Commission at the highest level. It shows the openness of the European institutions to listen to the voice of the ports. We welcome the establishment of the European Ports Forum. We hope that ESPO, representing all European port authorities in their diversity, will be strongly represented in this forum.” says ESPO’s Chairman Eamonn O’Reilly.

“I would like to thank the Port of Barcelona, all speakers and the participants for making this year’s conference so successful. This conference has shown that ESPO and its members are ready and open to discuss in public the most challenging issues including climate change, deglobalisation and China’s connectivity policy. This gives us already a lot of appetite for preparing next year’s edition”, says ESPO’s secretary general Isabelle Ryckbost.

The speakers’ presentations are available at: and the conference pictures will be soon available at

The ESPO Conference 2018 will take place on 31 May and 1 June and will be hosted by the Port of Rotterdam.

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