Recent studies on Maritime Space Planning and Blue Economy reveal the importance of shipping to the region’s economy, society and environment. These studies, carried out integrating technical, socio-economic and environmental aspects, reveal that maritime transport is the second most important factor of change in the Mediterranean, after coastal and maritime tourism.
The Mediterranean is today considered the iconic place of sustainable mobility in the region, where concrete transport and logistics projects are developed with the aim of connecting Trans-Mediterranean and Trans-European Transport Networks. The latest trends in this maritime framework show the movement towards a model in which the shipping services in the Mediterranean assume a decisive role in the Ro-Ro, Ro-Pax services connecting the Mediterranean maritime terminals, in the service of social and economic structure of the countries.
However, Mediterranean Sea is currently affected by different pressures. Due to its geographic position, wedged between the temperate climate of central Europe and the arid climate of northern Africa, the Mediterranean area seems to be one of the most susceptible to global climate change. Moreover, the increased rates of introduction and spread of marine alien species, due to the Suez Canal sheer magnitude of shipping traffic, represent a supplementary stress factor to Mediterranean marine native biota already challenged by climatic abnormalities. We also highlight a lack of a joint or regional environmental impact assessment process to evaluate the potential effects of ports, port infrastructure and port components on the delicate balances of the marine environment.
So, it is time to implement an innovative model of sustainable mobility for Mediterranean, aimed at harmonizing, on the one hand, the establishment of effective, high-quality maritime connections, and so reducing the socio-economic imbalances between the Southern and Northern Countries bordering the Sea, which are among some of the causes of migration movements, and, on the other hand, at limiting pollution damages to the sea, taking action on climate change and enhancing cultural exchanges.
To do that, we think that the concept of sustainability should be applied in a more comprehensive, holistic perspective, protecting life below water, navigating to zero emissions, promoting sustainable development of ports in line with the United Nations Sustainability Agenda. Because ports are critical points of connection where cargo is passed between ships, railroads and trucks, improving their sustainability will trickle down to every element of the global supply chain. Likewise, by assessing port sustainability, we can identify which parts of the chain need fixing.
The World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP), launched in Antwerp on 22nd and 23rd March 2018 by the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) in partnership with some of the world’s major port industry-related organizations, aims to contribute to the sustainable development of world ports in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainability Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The WPSP Portfolio counts 120 projects from 71 ports, covering 38 countries and five continents. The World Ports Sustainability Program has developed a practical framework on how ports can implement each of the 17 UN SDGs in practice. Resilient Infrastructure, Climate and Energy, Community Outreach and Port City Dialogue, Safety and Security and, finally, Governance and Ethics are the main addressed domains. So far, few projects have been delivered from Mediterranean Ports.
In this article we would like to highlight some of the current project to which the Mediterranean Ports should involve themselves to make more efficient the supply chains and contribute to the sustainable growth of the Mediterranean Region, whilst maintaining and rebuilding ecosystems.