Due to the location of our ports as a link between sea and land, and due to its direct vicinity to protection-worthy areas, it is our special focus that our work is in harmony with nature and the environment. For this reason, the prevention principle is the basis for our actions. When we develop new port areas, we make up for our impact towards the environment through expansive compensation measures. This creates important ecosystems and invaluable habitats for animals and plants in our region. We dedicate about a quarter of our entire area to the protection of nature.
By us, the control of environmentally relevant aspects of our business activities is with the staff department Strategic Corporate Development, and with the specialized departments at the individual port. In 2016, we adopted our Environmental Policy. It is firmly anchored in our Sustainability Strategy, and thus integrated in our Corporate Strategy.
Environmental Management System
The basis for our environmental activities is our Environment Management System. Here, we are guided by the international environment system for ports PERS (Port Environmental Review System). PERS was derived from ISO 14001 and was developed by ports for ports. After their extensive review, the certificate is awarded by the environmental initiative EcoPorts of the European Seaports Organization (ESPO). The PERS standard requires implementation and documentation of certain environmental requirements. This review is repeated every two years. Points of scrutiny are, for instance, the compliance with statutory requirements, the mapping of ecological effects on different parts of the port, and the reduction of negative effects on the environment through the ports.
The staff department Strategic Corporate Development/Sustainability Management, together with the expert staff from each affected area, are responsible for our Environmental Management System. Depending on the complexity of the tasks, we will also hire outside personnel when warranted. That way we make sure that the current standards are followed and that there is constant improvement. In order to ensure compliance with the target requirements, we have regular audits conducted at the company in varying intervals.
The strategy itself and the proposed measures are checked and fine-tuned throughout the year together with all of the branch managers and corporate management. In addition, and depending on demand, meetings on topic-related aspects are held multiple times a year with the responsible colleagues. These work groups are organized by the staff department Strategic Corporate Development/Sustainability Management. Those meetings serve the purpose of measuring the degree of achieved activities and initializing new ones, and also the ongoing scrutiny of the statutory compliance of the measures.
On a daily basis, we act as a hub between land and sea, and between the mainland and island world, in direct proximity to invaluable natural areas and to the Wadden Sea National Park. Therefore to us, the responsible treatment of the ecosystems comes naturally.
When building and operating infrastructure, we are always trying to keep the intrusion into nature as minimal as possible, or to completely avoid any such impact in the first place. Our approach is a mix between prevention and compensation. By following the prevention principle, we examine before each larger construction of maintenance measure the effects on nature and bio-diversity. We build in a demand-oriented manner and only things that are sensible for the business development of the customer and the region at large.
When we build new port facilities and need to develop new areas for that purpose, we compensate for this intrusion into nature through extensive compensation measures (so-called compensation areas). When implementing such measures, we closely collaborate with environmental authorities and non-government organization (NGOs) to find the best possible solutions and to include as many relevant factors as possible. And in doing so, we sometimes go above and beyond the statutory requirements, so that we can yield the greatest possible environmental benefit. This way, for instance on areas of land that were intensely farmed before, new eco-habitats can be developed for indigenous species of animals and plants.
On all compensation areas, monitoring is performed by independent organization in regular intervals. They ensure the eco-compatible further development according to the determined compensational targets and the preservation of the created biotopes. From this, we derive preservation and maintenance measures that we then implement by ourself, or with the help of partners. At this point, the volume of our compensation areas amounts to 928 hectares, which is equivalent to one quarter of NPorts entire area. This means that a large portion of our surface areas is earmarked just for nature.
With our responsibility for nature and invaluable eco-systems, we go above and beyond the traditional compensation measures. This activism is showcased in many examples and shows how ports can achieve real added values for nature through creative solutions, and how ports can advance to become attractive and lively locations. A good example is a bunker on the North Sea Island of Norderney that we have converted into a shelter for endangered bats. We also revamped side and center strips of roads on the island and converted them into flowering meadows to help counter-act the dying of insects.
The amount of waste that gets created here by us can generally be separated into three categories: 1. Own wastes from port maintenance and administration, 2. Ships’ wastes that get generated by ships in our ports, and 3. Construction waste from externally awarded construction jobs. For the first two kinds of waste, we had developed a systematic waste management that has been in place since 2017 to ensure a disposal that is as environmentally responsible as possible.
The operational responsibility is in the hands of each individual branch. In 2019, we made the entire waste management uniform. This includes communication and process development for capturing and documenting the waste volume and containers.
97,15 % Total Waste Separation Rate 2019 NPorts
Quelle: © Niedersachsen Ports GmbH & Co.KG, Nachhaltigkeitsbericht 2021
Our waste management primarily deals with the wastes of category 1, ships’ wastes are managed by our Port Office department. Monitoring of international regulations for maritime traffic is the Port Authority’s responsibility here. The proper separation, documentation, and disposal of wastes of category 3 are performed on NPorts’ behalf by external, specialized companies.
Waste disposal in our ports is performed by the principles of the waste hierarchy, i.e., avoidance comes first, then recycling, and finally: disposal. The waste generated through our operations processes is largely collected separately.
For this purpose, we have developed waste collection stations and waste guidelines for the employees for proper waste separation. Here, we distinguish between different categories, such as residual waste, scrap wood, mixed scrap metal, cable scrap, electric appliances, waste paper, supplies and substances containing oil, waste oils, hazardous waste, Green Dot items (clean and dry everyday recycling items), and construction rubble. Simultaneously we have created measures to reduce the generated waste, such as preferring to choose products with less packaging when making purchases, or returning empty containers for oils to our suppliers.
Despite of all our avoidance and our reuse, we will continue to generate waste within the scope of our activities for maintenance and new construction measures. For 2019, the corporate total waste volume amounted to 6,784 metric tons.
The increase, when compared to the years 2018 and 2017, can be explained through the disposal of construction and demolition waste from our own construction measures at the branches Emden and Norden. In 2019, at our headquarters in Oldenburg, we only generated wastes that were handed over to a community disposal provider.
Therefore, no waste and no separation rate were documented. The wastes from previous years can be traced back to retrofitting construction measures.
Since 2017, we have systematically recorded and monitored our waste volume. The commensurate systematic was developed and implemented by a work group. We did this, so that we can streamline our waste separation systems and include them in our reporting, down to the individual branch. This includes, among other things, the volume (quantity), the source location creating the waste, and the waste variety (e.g., hazardous waste, commercial waste, metal, etc.)
In this context, a sure indicator can be found in the waste separation rate, which we intend to increase within the scope of our Sustainability Strategy by 10% by 2025 (compared to 2018).
And we are extremely proud of that. Because in 2019, with a separation rate of 97.15% for all of NPorts, we have already surpassed 2018's number (83.8%) by 13%, and thereby met our target (see table above). This is explained by a number of small measures that we have implemented at all of the branch offices.
This waste removal must be reported to the individual port and occurs under supervision of the authorities.
This chiefly concerns ships’ wastes of two categories: Oil (MARPOL Annex I) and Ships’ Garbage (MARPOL Annex V). The first is typically removed by a tanker truck or a barge and then transferred towards proper disposal. Ships' Garbage pursuant to MARPOL Annex V is typically picked up from the ship by a container service.
Our Ships’ Waste Management Plan regulates the reporting and disposal of the waste. Such plans are strictly monitored and renewed every two years. Ever since we have been consistently implementing the Ships’ Waste Management Plans, we are able to showcase our positive contribution for the protection of the seas (see overview).
Construction waste is generated by construction contracts carried out on our behalf, e.g., during construction of a new quay wall. Each construction contractor is contractually obligated to properly dispose and to document the generated wastes. We make this responsibility clear to each contractor before the start of any construction measure.
Our core business makes us, as port infrastructure company, responsible for maintaining the water depths in our ports. Apart from the pure business benefit, safety is of utmost importance to us. Through pinpoint dredging we ensure a navigable target water depth. And when we dredge, we are concerned about doing it as sustainably as possible. Aside from taking certain dredge spoil amounts from the water (see table), we also utilize additional processes, such as water injection (2,635 dredging hours in 2019), and re-circulation in Emden (2,827,516 m3 in 2019).
To ensure that as little polluting loads, such as cargo residues, are carried into the surrounding waters of the ports, we clean the port areas intensely and permanently, for instance by using motorized sweeper trucks. In addition, we remove mechanical deposits from the drainage systems.
In order to safeguard the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site Wadden Sea, we have developed a comprehensive Dredging Management Program. It reduces the impact of our dredging on the sensitive Wadden Sea and simultaneously provides important data about its development and its current status.
In addition, we are conscientious about keeping the waters clean. One good example for this is the project “Fishing for Litter” in the Port of Norddeich, which is frequented by many fishing trawlers. For those fishing vessels, we have been providing a garbage can, where they can dispose of any garbage by-catch. An additional measure is our Sea Bin (see page 40). It gets deployed in suitable port basins and ensures that floating debris from the water's surface is routinely ‘fished off’. We also participate in the roundtable ‘Ocean Waste’ on a regular basis, which is organized by Niedersachsen's Ministry of the Environment. Various stakeholders are represented there, such as NLWKN, water authorities, Verband Deutscher Reeder (German Ship Owners’ Association), companies, and female and male representatives from the ports. Together, we develop waste avoidance strategies at this roundtable and exchange ideas to get acquainted with different points of view and try to unify them.
As a regionally anchored player, we look at procurement as an important leverage for our sustainable management. Whenever we can, we are supporting regional procurement that has economic, environmental, and social benefits.
As a public company, we are obligated to engage in public procurement procedures, which means that we cannot establish and develop a ‘standard’ set of go-to suppliers. Typical things that require award by public procurement are the construction of buildings and facilities, but also all kinds of services (such as maintenance services). When we are constructing new buildings, or complex technical systems, we mostly subcontract those jobs with large, experienced industrial engineering or construction companies. Any materials are typically sourced from wholesale companies, where we purchase material for the maintenance of the ports, but also things like office supplies.
In regard to our Sustainability Strategy, we have taken first steps to make environmental criteria a much more important factor when sourcing through public procurement. On the one hand, we are increasingly sourcing certain product groups based on environmental criteria within the scope of public procurement.
This includes FSC-certified construction lumber, FSC and PEFC paper, paint, cleaning agents, eco-electricity, electric appliances (with a good Energy Star rating), etc. For the future, we strive to achieve systematization and an expansion of these approaches that we also intend to introduce into our public procurement criteria. On the other hand, we are guided by the criteria of the State of Niedersachsen when choosing suppliers. In this respect, we also consider criteria such as minimum wage, human rights, and anti-discrimination.