June 7, 2017 - On 1 and 2 June, the European port industry gathered in Barcelona for ESPO’s annual conference entitled “Ports in a changing Climate, a Changing world”. During the first conference day, 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. His opening was followed by contributions and sharing of best practices of 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.

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