Australian ports get behind sustainability reporting

Shorebird habitat Shorebird habitat is being restored at the Port of Newcastle. Image: Newcastle Ports, Australia

Australian ports have cooperated to produce a report which showcases the sustainability initiatives taken by a number of local port companies. By Dave MacIntyre

‘Ports and a Sustainable Australia’ is the title of the joint report, which forms part of Ports Australia’s contribution to the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) library of collaborative efforts to enhance and coordinate future sustainability worldwide.

Ports Australia officially became a partner of the WPSP in September last year and has been guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in producing the document.

The report cites case studies of work done by ports around Australia that improve the sustainability of their local environments and communities and which fit in with the SDGs. Under the theme of ‘Environment, Climate and Energy’, it highlights the restoration of 28 hectares of shorebird habitat by the Port of Newcastle, restoring saltmarsh and mudflats from invasion by mangroves.

The Port of Brisbane is one of several ports moving towards renewable energy, beginning a first phase of solar panel installations and partnering with port tenants to assist them in installing their own solar panels. The precinct now produces 182 kilowatts of energy from its combined panel system with plans to bring more online.

The theme of ‘Resilient Infrastructure’ includes information on how New South Wales Ports is using steel furnace slag, a byproduct of local steel-making industries, as aggregate for concrete blocks to be used in breakwaters.

Flinders Ports and the City of Port Lincoln have worked together to salvage timber from an old wharf which was dismantled. The old timber has been reconditioned and used to commission four public art bench seats in the town, which have become popular with tourists.

In the ‘Health, Safety and Security’ category, a highlight is in Tasmania, where proactive management of firefighting foams is being undertaken. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) materials in some foams are persistent organic pollutants. All PFAS firefighting foams have been successfully removed from Tasmanian Ports and destroyed. Australian Ports are collectively working to safely destroy all remaining supplies of PFAS foam they may have onsite.

Other areas of sustainability initiatives being undertaken by Australian ports come under the themes of ‘Governance and Ethics’ and ‘Corporate Citizenship’.

In its report, Ports Australia acknowledges that it has more to do in future in order to create value for local business and communities while protecting the environment, and has therefore targeted five goals, namely to: continue to raise awareness of the key freight-enabling role Australia’s ports play; analyse the factors that may affect the resilience of the ports industry; enable community engagement in planning for future sustainable port activities; recognise key community values; and undertake effective commercial operations that incorporate positive societal values while future-proofing the industry against factors that will affect its resilience.

Ports Australia Chief Executive Mike Gallacher says that in an island nation, Australia’s ports work with their communities and environments as a matter of day-to-day business. “The sustainability work our ports do complements the varied size and mixture of their local communities and environment but all with the purpose of addressing the challenges of securing a sustainable future for Australia and Australians. Ports Australia wanted to capture these efforts in a single document as a reference point for port communities around the world as part of our obligation to the World Ports Sustainability Project.”

Mr Gallacher says Australia’s ports operate in some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world. “They are also main sources of employment in regional areas and keystones of those communities. This position comes with a degree of responsibility. This body of work captures ports’ recognition of this responsibility.”

On an international scale, he adds, Australia’s ports are innovators in biosecurity and community initiatives. “It is important we share these innovations with the rest of the world. The Australian Government is weaving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into its policies and planning. Therefore, it is vital that as facilitators of Australia’s economy, our ports can articulate how they are contributing to the nation’s sustainability efforts.”

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