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WPCAP ports aligned in series of new climate change actions

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The World Ports Climate Action Programme (WPCAP) participants have confirmed their resolve to combat climate change. On 11 June 2020, CEO’s of the 11 WPCAP ports held an online global conference to discuss a series of WPCAP staff recommendations to make strong advancement in addressing global warming, and deliver on the call for clean air through concerted, cooperative actions. Substantial headway was booked by the CEO’s on proposals of five working groups that spent the last half year developing actions on topics such as efficiency, power-to-ship, sustainable fuels, cargo handling equipment and policy.

WPCAP was initiated by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and launched in September 2018 at a global climate conference in San Francisco. Other ports that have joined the action-oriented network include: Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Vancouver, Antwerp, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Hamburg, HAROPA port of Le Havre and Yokohama. Initially, a global cross-industry face-to-face conference was planned for June this year. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the set-up had to be changed into an online gathering with only port delegates.

Critical mass

A common thread in the WPCAP work is the aspiration to form coalitions among ports on specific projects as well as involving shipping lines, terminals and energy providers as alignment across the value chain will have the most impact. Another recurring theme of programme is the desire of ports to take control over their own destiny instead of waiting until other institutions introduce adjusted rules and regulations. Cooperation between leading international ports provides moreover a critical mass to realise change successfully.

The WPCAP CEO’s adopted five agreements, summarised as follows:


In terms of efficiency, observations are that ports, terminals and shipping are facing enormous challenges to reduce emissions whilst there is limited collaboration among them. Speed optimisation (just-in-time principle) and enhanced planning on routing and turn-around time in ports are important steps, but require that parties join efforts and share data. The CEO’s have agreed that for this specific topic WPCAP will seek support from International Maritime Organization (IMO) Global Industry Alliance in a fact-based overview of emission reduction options, whilst taking the initiative to form a coalition with IMO for developing a joint roadmap on reducing emissions in the ship-port interface.


Power-to-ship has the clear potential to enhance air quality whilst reducing to emissions in the port as ships can switch off their own power generation and make use of, preferably, green energy infrastructure supplied by port and terminal organisations. In addition, this reduces noise. Power-to-ship however starts to have real impact if numerous ports introduce this arrangement. Hence, not only ports, but also terminals, shipping lines, ship owners, grid owners and energy companies need to work together to achieve a critical mass. After all, this will stimulate all parties in the network to invest in this equipment. WPCAP CEO’s unanimously decided to develop three coalitions to further power-to-ship advancements involving liquid bulk (tankers), containers and cruise. The working group concerned will come up with concrete proposals in three months and prepares investment plans by early 2021.

Alternative fuels

The third agreement is on alternative fuels, another complex area as the fuel of the future in the shipping sector has not been crystallised yet. The WPCAP CEO’s have now agreed to facilitate the launch of pilot projects in 2021 on new sustainable low carbon marine fuels in their ports that will directly benefit deep-sea/ocean-going vessels. Lessons learned on the usage of LNG was highlighted as these could be used for the introduction of new low or zero emission fuels as well.

Cargo handling equipment

Cargo handling equipment has the interest of ports as this topic could contribute to the overall aim of WPCAP, though there is a shortage of information and there are limited commercial products available on the market. The CEO’s decided to intensify working relations with terminal operators in their ports in order to introduce equipment demonstration and build a database for information sharing. There also was a strong plea to increase involvement of terminal operators in WPCAP actions.


The final commitment was made on the topic of policy. Many ports around the world are using policy instruments to stimulate emission reductions in the maritime industry, such as incentives, pricing policies and regulations. The WPCAP CEO’s concluded that increased coordination and further development of those efforts – taking in mind guiding principles of competition law - could strengthen efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of those instruments. Against that background, the CEO’s agreed on actions improving the impact of policy instruments that ports may choose to use, supporting both decarbonisation of sea going vessels and cargo handling equipment.

Pressure on

Jens Meier, CEO of the Port of Hamburg, stressed at the end of the meeting that WPCAP has not lost momentum due to the COVID-19 situation. Eugene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, proposed to increase the number of high level meeting to two per year “in order to keep the pressure on”. This was unanimously accepted.

Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority and host of the online conference, thanked all port delegates for their “broad support, high energy to make a difference and the persistent aim in the port network to tackle important issues ourselves.”

Castelein offered to continue the coordination of WPCAP: “I am more than pleased with the result of where we are with WPCAP. We need coalitions to make progress with combatting climate change and building a new sustainable world economy. I am glad that we have a shared desire to be meaningful, rather than only intentional.”

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