APM Terminals at the forefront of green containers quest


APM Terminals and the Port of Rotterdam have joined forces in a research and development agreement that hopes to produce a 'quantum leap' in how container ports worldwide can become greener and more efficient in handling the boom in boxes.

The five-year global programme will seek to improve 'port productivity and efficiency, land utilisation, environmental sensitivity and public awareness of the container terminal industry' - the companies said in a joint statement.

APM Terminals vice-president John Verschelden said - "A quantum leap is needed in the container terminal industry. Our customers' ships are becoming bigger, the speed of the ships has increased, the fuel efficiency is better and their environmental performance has improved.

"And what has been our response? - a deep quay-wall or bigger outreach for the cranes. The container terminal industry has not yet made the amount of progress that is needed."

Mr Verschelden said that container terminals tended to "function in isolation" within many ports, although - as in Rotterdam - there are examples of close co-operation with the port authority.

Rotterdam Port Authority chief executive Hans Smits said - "Globalisation and economic growth generate a structural increase in goods transport. Our aim asa port authority is to make sure that this is facilitated within our port by increasing the productivity of existing terminals, by making new ones very efficient and, at the same time, increase the sustainability of logistics - because economic growth and sustainability must go hand-in-hand."

Environmental issues - in particular, carbon footprints for terminals handling equipment and inland supply chains - will play an increasingly important role at container ports in the future.

Mr Verschelden added - "We have already seen a demand for more environmentally friendly terminals - using less diesel and more electrically operated equipment - as well as the call for greater use of barge and rail, instead of trucks."

Other issues under consideration will be reduction in dwell times for container vessels and improved information exchange along the supply chain.

Mr Verschelden highlighted the Port of Rotterdam's environmental requirements written into the concession for the Maasvlakte 2 container terminal development - set for completion in 2014 - and launching what the partners describe as "a new generation of eco-friendly ports".

He said - "There is less land available for port developments worldwide and so we have to make the best possible use of what we have. Rotterdam has made it very clear that Maasvlakte 2 is not just about a plot of land and quay lengths, but it is also about sustainability and the environment.

"The concession will run for a good many years - but, do you really want to build a 21st century container terminal using 20th century technology?"