A turbulent economic and political climate has made green investments more challenging but also more urgent than ever, delegates to GreenPort Congress 2022 heard on day one.

Capt Sameer Bhatnagar, Head of Fuel Transition & Infrastructure, A.P. Moller - Maersk

Ports face an existential challenge in delivering the energy transition while simultaneously managing the fall-out from waves of crises, delegates at GreenPort Congress & Cruise 2022 have heard. While the Covid pandemic, the Ukraine invasion and global inflation have put pressure on port operations and investment plans, the need to decarbonise - and to provide the infrastructure for maritime decarbonisation - is increasingly urgent.

Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General, European Sea Port Organisation urged delegates to channel Winston Churchill and “never waste a good crisis”. The challenges over the past three years have highlighted the strategic and critical role of ports, she said, and operators should look to capitalise on this newfound appreciation as they accelerate their investments in the energy transition – and the investments they seek from other stakeholders.

The ambitions of container liner owner A.P.Moller-Maersk illustrate the urgency of the transition and the need for rapid investment. Despite rising energy and material prices (and hence higher prices for green fuel production and shipbuilding), the company has added more methanol-fuelled containerships to its newbuilding programme in the past two months, with 18 due to be in service by 2024.

Captain Sameer Bhatnagar, Senior Decarbonisation Integration Manager - Decarb Business Development & Innovation, A.P. Moller-Maersk, urged port operators to ‘lean out’ in investing in the required methanol supply infrastructure rather than waiting for regulators to take a lead.

“Supply infrastructure has to radically change,” he noted. “This is proving a challenge and needs commitment across the supply chain, including energy suppliers and ports.”

Ports are responding in varying ways. The economic challenges of the energy transition were one of the prime reasons for the merger that formed the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, host of GreenPort Congress & Cruise 2022, said Port of Antwerp-Bruges General Director Policy & Strategy Rik Goetinck. The combined organisation’s greater leverage is epitomised by plans to develop the region as a ‘Hydrogen Valley’, with huge hydrogen import and eventually production capacities.

Congress chairman Christopher Wooldridge - Science Coordinator, EcoPorts EcoSLC, and Visiting Research Fellow, Cardiff University – summed up the urgency by pointing to the UN definition of sustainability as meeting present needs without compromising future generations.

“We need ideas and the clock is ticking,” he said. “The future generations are stacking up.”