World's ports come to Jerusalem

‘We are dredging Haifa Port as we speak. We have to deepen our port from 15 meters to 17.5 meters in order to make it possible to anchor larger ships,’ Israel Ports Company chairman says.

By NADAV SHEMER
May 22, 2012 22:37
International Association of Ports and Harbors con

International Association of Ports and Harbors conference 37. (photo credit: Rami Hacham)

The International Association of Ports and Harbors, a global alliance of more than 230 ports in 90 countries, which together handle over 60 percent of the world’s seaborne trade and nearly 80% of its container traffic, held its mid-term conference and board meeting in Jerusalem this week.

The Jerusalem Post sat down for a panel discussion Tuesday with four of the conference’s key players: IAPH president Geraldine Knatz, Port of Los Angeles; European Seaports Organization (ESPO) chairman Victor Schoemakers, Port of Rotterdam; American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) chairman Armando Duarte, Santa Marta Port, Colombia; and Israel Ports Company chairman Yechiel Leiter.

Post: The IAPH recently published its new mission statement. What is this about?

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Knatz: For many years, the IAPH mission statement was “World peace through world trade and world trade through world ports.” That has been in use for over 50 years, but we felt it didn’t say what our organization does, which is to bring everybody together and collaborate and share best practices. This new mission has marked a shift toward greater interaction among our committee members, having more active committees and tackling relevant issues. For example, the IAPH, along with the World Shipping Council, has been at the forefront on the overweight containers issue. This is a controversial issue, and it was not easy even coming to agreement within the organization.

The other area where we’ve had a lot of success is in sustainability.

We developed the Environmental Ship Index, a global standard for shipping. Los Angeles was the first to adopt this, Ashdod signed on recently and so have most of the big European ports.

What is the significance of the IAPH-ESPO memorandum of understanding, or the “Treaty of Jerusalem” as you’ve nicknamed it, which was signed this week?

Schoemakers
: IAPH is the primary counterpart of global bodies such as the United Nations and International Maritime Organization. ESPO is the primary counterpart of the European commission and other European bodies. A lot of legislation starts at global institutions like the IMO and so on, and then it is transferred to Europe. On the other hand, Europe sometimes takes the first step because shipping and ports are a global business.

It is very difficult to have different legislative systems in some parts of the world and not in others because our clients are in shipping lines and therefore have to deal with everything.

This MOU is an important step toward synchronizing our interests and toward creating more cooperation.

How are seaports and their roof bodies dealing with global economic pressures?

Knatz
: Trade dropped significantly at the Port of Los Angeles [during the global financial crisis]. We anticipated it by cutting our own budget by $35 million and then giving that to our customers through discounts in order to help them weather the storm. In one of our programs, we gave them back 6% of everything they paid us the previous year, to help them survive that year.

We started investing in infrastructure because when your volumes are down, it’s a good time to make physical improvements. Unemployment was very high in the Los Angeles area, so we started our construction program both to prepare us for the future and to create jobs for a lot of the longshoremen who were out of work. I’m hoping that by the end of this year we’ll be back to where we were in 2006.

Duarte: In the past we went through years of uncertainty and instability and looked to ports in the United States and Europe in order to learn from their examples. [Today], our economic situation is similar to Israel’s. Most of our member countries are growing at 6% to 8% annually, and we expect to maintain that situation. Cargo increases every day by X amount of containers.

I remain focused on the human side. I believe fully that a nation’s best treasure is its people. You must train them and give them the best opportunities.

If they are happy, they work with more effort, even if they have to work overtime.

And I hope that we can share all these experiences in the future with those countries who have taught us so many things.

At Santa Marta we dedicate 5% of all our income to our foundation, which supports the development of poor communities in our city. For example, we have just completed construction of a housing center for 5,000 poor kids, which was built with the support of Children International.

What that gives us is satisfaction.

It has also helped us [build a relationship with the community], so that we have their support when we file requests with the transport minister and government authorities for extensions of our concession period.

Leiter: If you look at the data from 2008 to 2010, you will see that Israeli ports rebounded.

You rebound in an economic downturn when you apply intellectual creativity and initiative.

You have to stay ahead of the curve. For example, if Israel does not deepen and expand its ports, it won’t be able to accommodate large ships. The industry is moving to large ships, and if we can’t accommodate them, we’ll be left behind. You have to look at these challenges as opportunities, and if you use these opportunities to build, then you’re going to succeed.

Schoemakers: We also rebounded very quickly from the crisis in 2008. We were the first port to see growth start again and now have to deal with a second European crisis.

We are still maintaining a growth of around 2% to 3% a year, which is quite extraordinary in the present circumstances.

We are in competition with Hamburg, Bremen, Amsterdam and Antwerp, so we also have to stay ahead of the curve. That is why we’re expanding our port right now through the Maasvlakte 2 project, which is the biggest port expansion plan in the world. In addition, we recently published our “Port Vision 2030,” which provides our national government, stakeholders, clients and investors with confidence.

Our biggest issue, of course, is how to formulate a logistical strategy for the European hinterland.

We can build a fantastic port, but when it starts and ends with the port itself, then you have a problem. Our strategy is focused on developing a new structure to supply the hinterland, and to do that we have to work with the European Commission. So that is why we are working hand in hand with the IAPH.

Conference delegates have mentioned the relationship between ports and the environment. What are ports doing on environmental issues?

Knatz
: We at the IAPH created the World Climate Initiative, bringing together all the big ports to focus on how we can reduce carbon. We put our money where our mouths are, giving financial incentives to attract cleaner ships to our ports In Los Angeles. As part of the effort to get the community behind us, we set our own standards beyond regulatory control. This included mandating that ships turn their engines off when in port and plug in to shoreside electricity and creating our own requirement for low-sulphur fuel.

Much of what we did became the regulation in California and then throughout the United States.

Schoemakers: ESPO introduced its own environmental code of practice many years ago, which guides us in dealing with environmental problems in port planning and development.

European ports can apply to certify their environmental behavior, so they can prove their performance to their stakeholders and to the world.

At the Port of Rotterdam, every investment and infrastructure project includes a program where we cooperate with communities that are affected by our investments. The essential thing is to get everyone on board and to manage the whole project, including the negative external effects, through a mutual solution.

Instead of acting against the court, we must ensure the community gets along with the port. That way we are able to manage the whole process without having appeals to higher courts.

Duarte: We have been following the examples of the Europeans – who are very strict – and the Americans. Most Colombian exports are sent to the European Union or to the USA, so we must follow their initiatives, adapting it, of course, to what we consider suitable for us.

Leiter: We are dredging Haifa Port as we speak. We have to deepen our port from 15 meters to 17.5 meters in order to make it possible to anchor larger ships. We have a representative from the Environmental Protection Ministry sitting on the ship 24/7 and monitoring the dredging operation. At the first sign that anything is going to be compromised in an environmental sense the process stops, and we don’t go on without the necessary permits.

Would any of you like to add anything?

Leiter: I want to add something about the significance of hosting this conference in Jerusalem. The father of international law, a Dutchman by the name of Hugo Grotius, was asked by his government to write a position paper that would legitimate his country’s control of the high seas.

In response to Grotius’s book, Mare Liberum [Open Seas], the English government appealed to well-known jurist John Selden to write a paper claiming that there were borders in the seas. Selden entitled his book Mare Clausum [Closed Seas].

This led to a debate between Selden and Grotius which revolved around their interpretations of a section of the Talmud tractate Sanhedrin, which wrestled with the question of how to draw borders in the high seas. And here we are at an international conference on the seas in Jerusalem, 500 years after Grotius’s and Selden’s argument. That really gives me a thrill.


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