FILE : ENVIRONMENT
The Montreal Port Authority regularly participates in vital discussions with other stakeholders of the St. Lawrence River to ensure the waterway remains a viable resource for generations to come.
Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey
Stefan Routhier, Deputy Harbour Master, represents the Port of Montreal at the Navigation Coordination Committee. The committee has representatives from various Canadian and Quebec government agencies, environmental and conservation groups, pleasure boating associations, and commercial navigation organizations.
The initiative began with a series of studies done between 1988 and 1998 regarding the environmental impact of commercial navigation and recreational boating on the St. Lawrence River.
“Initially, however, there weren’t enough representatives of commercial navigation,” says Nicole Trépanier, who joined the discussions as executive director of the St. Lawrence Shipoperators Association in 1999, and continued to participate as president of SODES (Société de développement économique du St. Laurent/St. Lawrence Economic Development Council) as of 2010.
“We found it troubling that commercial navigation was often being blamed for environmental harm without factual proof, especially when the impacts of other activities, such as recreational boating and agricultural practices, were not being taken into account,” she says.
“Commercial navigation is more than willing to do its part to be environmentally responsible, but we need to see the scientific evidence and know the true costs of all the proposed solutions,” Trépanier says. “And we also want to know what others are doing as their share of the responsibility.”
Dredging and shoreline erosion were the main concerns. While discussions began with some frustration and even anger, it was by everyone sitting down at the same table that solutions acceptable to everyone were found.
“It was then decided to take a consensus-building approach to establishing a Sustainable Navigation Strategy for the St. Lawrence,” Trépanier recalls. “We spend countless hours, and there were times I thought we would never achieve consensus, but we finally came up with a plan that everybody approved.”
A strategy was announced in 2004 with 10 guiding principles for the sustainable use of the St. Lawrence River for navigation purposes. By 2010, an initial action plan was completed for a number of identified priorities. These included creating a registry for any planned dredging (to ensure it didn’t interfere with local ecology), voluntarily reducing vessel speeds in areas sensitive to shoreline erosion, and researching the impacts of climate change on marine transportation.
Mélissa Lalibertédirector of projects and
governmental affairs at SODES.
Mélissa Laliberté, director of projects and governmental affairs at SODES, now represents SODES on the Navigation Coordination Committee. “We’re looking at the effectiveness of the completed actions to see what more needs to be done,” she says. “We’ve also been working for almost a year to build consensus on a new Sustainable Action Plan that would be in effect until 2017.”
Two important goals are likely to be added to the existing objectives. The first is to enhance the protection of marine mammals. “This has become a greater concern for both environmental conservation groups and the maritime industry,” says Laliberté. “We want to take a closer look at where there are potential conflicts between marine life and commercial navigation and find ways to eliminate or avoid these.”
Another daunting priority is how to maintain successful commercial navigation in the St. Lawrence River if and when the water levels decrease as a result of climate change. “It has been difficult to establish consensus regarding this priority, but I am hopeful we will reach an agreement sometime this year,” Laliberté says.
As slow and occasionally frustrating as the process is, Trépanier says it’s far better to have stakeholders talking directly with each other in a consensus-building forum than shouting at each other through the media or via other public venues. “This is an important democratic exercise that really serves everyone’s best interests, but it takes a lot of time and sometimes patience.”
Work on the Sustainable Navigation Strategy for the St. Lawrence prompted maritime industry leaders to start thinking seven years ago about what else their companies should be doing in terms of improving their environmental sustainability. “We knew our sector was superior in terms of fuel efficiency and air emissions, but we also knew that we couldn’t rest forever on that success,” Trépanier says.
Representatives from SODES, the Port of Montreal, the Chamber of Marine Commerce, several major shipping companies, and other maritime enterprises gathered to discuss what else the industry could do. The result was the launch of the Green Marine environmental program for shipping and port enterprises almost six years ago.
Green Marine has since expanded from the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes regions across North America. It has a steadily growing number of Canadian and U.S. ports, terminals, ferry and tugboat operators, domestic and international shipping companies, as well as seaway authorities as participants.
David Bolduc, executive director of Green
Participants voluntarily commit to improving their environmental performance year over year in measurable ways. “We have developed a self-assessment guide that every company has to complete to gauge its progress regarding a number of environmental priorities,” explains David Bolduc, Green Marine’s executive director. “These include reducing air emissions, protecting water quality, minimizing community impacts such as noise and light, all the way to demonstrating environmental leadership through, for example, the implementation of the latest available green technology.”
At first only shipping companies were going to benchmark their performance, but port authorities quickly expressed their desire to participate in the benchmarking. “We realized that we could lead by example by showing the steps we were taking to become more environmentally sustainable,” says Jean-Luc Bédard, Vice-President, Operations, and Harbour Master of the Port of Montreal.
The Port of Montreal distinguished itself once again in the organization’s most recent report. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is the highest performance rating possible, the Port of Montreal achieved Level 4 for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Level 5 for its efforts to reduce conflicts of use and for environmental leadership. Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance audits the results.
Clean vessel initiatives
Many ports are offering incentives to ship operators that reduce the environmental footprint of their vessels. The Montreal Port Authority has been a member of the Green Award Foundation since 2009. The international program grants rebates to ships that have obtained Green Award certification based on rigorous safety, seaworthiness and environment performance standards.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey launched a $4.87-million Clean Vessel Incentive (CVI) program in January. The program offers financial incentives to operators of oceangoing vessels calling at certain terminals. To qualify, operators must implement engine, fuel and technology improvements that will reduce a ship’s emissions beyond the mandatory standards established by the International Maritime Organization.
CVI will provide reimbursements to qualified applicants through December 31, 2015, on a first-come, first-served basis with an overall funding cap of $1.6 million annually.
“The program will result in cleaner air which, in turn, means better health for the people who live and work in the port district,” says Pat Foye, PANYNJ’s executive director.
CVI will use the Environmental Ship Index developed by the World Ports Climate Initiative to evaluate improvements.Reimbursements will be given for a ship obtaining a high score based on its reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions, use of fuels with low-sulphur content, implementation of an energy management plan, and installation of an onshore power system that enables it to plug into electrical sources while in port. Additional points will be awarded to vessels that reduce their speed to optimize fuel efficiency.
Tools for terminals
BSR – a global network of nearly 300 companies working towards a more just and sustainable world – has developed a program to assist port terminals worldwide in improving their environmental performance.
With the understanding that several port-related efforts were already well underway, BSR focused specifically on terminals as individual entities.
The new environmental assessment tool helps terminals to determine performance benchmarks vis-à-vis other terminals. It establishes supply chain metrics (such as the greenhouse gas emissions created by shipping a product) as well as holistic impacts (such as undesired changes in local noise levels or air quality).
“Our questions are designed to collect data that is common to most terminal operators,” says Raj Sapu, BSR’s director of Advisory Services. “A two-tiered framework includes yes/no indicators regarding performance and then relevant metrics expected by shipper and consumer stakeholders.” A terminal can also use the tool to measure itself against further standards for a more detailed assessment.
“The pilot-program effort included ‘road-testing’ this framework with a number of terminals,” Sapu says. “It can be used to benchmark performance, share best practices, and increase readiness for the rising expectations of consumers and shippers in terms of wanting greener supply chains.”
BSR’s initial assessment determined that port terminals in Asia are lagging significantly behind North American and European terminals when it comes to sustainability practices, but these ports could quickly catch up by making specific improvements. BSR hopes a number of terminals will take advantage of the free environmental assessment resource.