A paler shade of green?

OK, so the ports sector is not necessarily going to welcome all new environmental regulation from Europe with open arms – but surely ports can at least draw comfort from knowing they are operating on a level (green) playing field with their competitors.

Sadly, that just is not the case. Take a recent report on the Cemex cement plant at the Port of Tilbury; one of the most productive and efficient plants in the world, it was opened in 2009 and has the capability to produce 1.2m tonnes of cement a year, using up to 40% less energy than traditional mills.

But because the UK has been more keen to adopt the EU’s high carbon taxes, while other member states have not, the Tilbury plant is operating at about 20% of capacity; the high cost of electricity, added to energy and carbon taxes imposed in the UK, mean it is cheaper for Cemex to import cement from less ‘green’ plants in other countries, where the tax regime is not so punishing.

A little further up the UK east coast, George Kieffer, chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership, this week reminded delegates at an EU Port Integration conference: “The promotion of international trade requires a competitive and efficient ports and shipping sector.”

He then went on to highlight a series of policy initiatives at national, EU and global levels which ‘seem to be designed to undermine that very competitiveness which underpins the viability of the sector’.

Among them – the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which penalises and discriminates against ports and businesses on port estates, he said. “This is a UK regulation that applies to all businesses consuming more than 6,000 MW of electrical power in a year.”

Carbon penalties need to be considered against the relative contribution that shipping and ports make to carbon emissions, he insisted. “And in my more cynical moments, I am left to wonder whether governments regulate what is easiest rather than where the greatest impact in carbon reductions could be made.”

Kieffer also asked, why does any new organisation created by government ‘have the overwhelming need to demonstrate its usefulness by inventing new regulations’?

The Marine Management Organisation, created towards the end of the UK’s previous government, has decided to invent Marine Conservation Zones, he said – and one of the first will be in the Orwell and Stour estuaries, home to one of the UK’s most important ports clusters, including Felixstowe, Harwich, Ipswich and Mistley.

“I suspect that the area was chosen because the expert and excellent environmental stewardship of Harwich Haven Authority means that the data on which to base the designation is both more extensive and reliable than in other areas; perhaps a penalty for being too environmentally minded!”




Posted 06 March 2013

© Copyright 2019 Seatrade (UBM (UK) Ltd). Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade.

Felicity Landon

Ports Correspondent, Seatrade Maritime

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