Environmental policy, reviews and management systems

Preparation of an environmental policy or review

The ABP Environmental Review

Implementation of an environmental management system

Environmental Management System in the Ports of Truro and Penryn

Ports need to improve the transparency of the actions that they take in the normal course of operations that also protect the environment. Each major function of the port and harbour requires consideration of the environment within its normal management operation. Yet, the absence of a written statement of environmental policy, environmental review or a formal environmental management system has made it difficult to explain to government, environmental groups and the public the sheer extent of environmental activity within the ports industry. Therefore, increased accountability of port and harbour operations may be achieved through informal or formal means with the common aim of recording and publishing them. A major benefit of undertaking environmental reviews and implementing environmental management systems is the ability to identify environmental issues for a port and to provide a means of ensuring that they are managed in a systematic and effective way.

Preparation of an environmental policy or review

There is no doubt that there will be an ever-increasing requirement for environmental reporting. Some major companies have produced comprehensive environmental reports covering:

  • description of operations and environmental activity,
  • clear environmental objectives, quantified where possible,
  • quantified performance against objectives,
  • external auditing of environmental performance, and
  • certification to the International Standard ISO14001, the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and/or risk ratings such as Safety and Environmental Ratings Management (SERM).

Such companies tend to be in the manufacturing or utility sector, where there are clear inputs (electricity and water) and identifiable outputs (emissions and waste). Typically these reports cover five to seven main themes. The ports industry has a more complex problem when preparing an environmental review of its operations with up to 20 themes to be covered at the same level of aggregation. Energy and water consumption are minimal factors compared to the ‘hands on’ management of the real environment by ports. Also much of what ports do is in a regulated environment and requires the ports industry to work closely with a wide range of Government and local authorities.

In these circumstances it becomes difficult to define quantified environmental objectives at an early stage. A review of a port or harbours environmental policy is therefore a first step. The environmental policy review can be backed up by a management system that tracks achievement of the environmental objectives in terms of time, whilst trying to avoid intruding on existing well-established management practices. An example of a recently prepared environmental review is Associated British Ports (ABP) A better place in the environment, the steps taken to develop of which is described in Box 11. The Port of Dover is in the process of developing its second ‘Environmental Review’. Its first review, which was published in 1998, provided an overview of the port’s environmental performance during 1997 and established specific targets to ensure that progress could be monitored effectively (Dover Harbour Board 1998).

As part of the ECO-information in European Port project, a self-diagnosis methodology has been designed to allow port managers to regularly review their environmental management practice and to identify their environmental priorities as the first step in an environmental review. This self-diagnosis methodology or SDM98 examines environmental management together with key aspects (compliance, port development, incident control, current actions) of the environmental issues targeted by this European project. The SDM98 is being completed by over 50 ports in Europe and the UK, including a number of ports belonging to the British Ports Association who are prime partners in the project. The analysis of these results will provide individual ports with an overview of their environmental strengths and weaknesses and provide review the environmental situation in the European port sector. The software version and analysis tool are under development (Tyler-Walters Cardiff University personal communication 1999).

The ABP Environmental Review

The ABP environmental review explains the complex background within which ports must operate and sets out the wide range of environmental issues to all possible "stakeholders". This makes clear the fact that the ports have been involved in environmental management for a long time, and explains the constraints and motivation for their actions. It also sets out overall environmental goals, in terms of sustainability, and specific unquantified objectives for each theme in the review.

Themes covered include environmental management, marine safety, operations, coastal zone management, conservation schemes and biodiversity, dredging, pollution and ships’ waste, and developmental projects. Following the wide distribution of the review, ABP are in the process of searching for quantified measures (benchmarks) for the environmental objectives which are genuinely within the control of port management. The review represents a baseline on which formal environment management and reporting can be built.

The review is widely recognised as the most comprehensive environment report from a UK port company yet, and has received acclaim from a number of sectors. At the recent ACCA national reporting awards ceremony Mr Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, singled out three companies as being good examples of first time reporting, including ABP. In their submission to government relating to the review of Trust Ports, RSPB recommended that Trust Ports should be required to prepare and publish an environmental review. They stated that "A good example of the kind of thing required is the Environmental Review published by ABP".

Implementation of an environmental management system

A number of ports and harbours within or near marine SACs have developed an environmental policy and some are implementing some type of environmental management system. Environmental management systems are an internal system of procedures and reviews that seek to identify and minimise the impacts of port operations. In some cases these systems have been developed to meet the International Standards for environmental management systems (ISO14001 (BS EN ISO 14001)) and others have been prepared according to the guidelines of the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

At present EMAS registration is restricted to companies in the mining, manufacturing, utility or waste sectors, although it is due for revision for implementation in the year 2000. The specifications of EMAS are changing into a more user-friendly format and if a regulatory regime comes into force then EMAS will be central to it. In 1998, Michael Meacher stated that any voluntary systems must achieve or approach EMAS certification to be regarded as acceptable. The principal features of the revised EMAS will be:

  • Environmental management systems based

on 14001

  • Annual update

Covering all types of sites and organisation

Details of verification

Compliance with legal standards

Summary of environmental objectives

Commitment to improvement

Data on performance against objectives

Open dialogue with stakeholders

Summary of impacts

A new type of environmental statement


  • Description of organisation

Publicly available tier reporting

Environment policy can be used to

report on national or sectoral indicators.

An environmental management system is likely to be only as effective as it is designed to be, but they can be designed so that real achievements can be made. These achievements may simply be increased awareness of the ports of any potentially damaging operations and the identification of solutions, to the implementation of good housekeeping practices to minimise pollution (Rennis 1995). Education of staff, sub-contractors, suppliers and the public play an important role in an environmental management system and increasing public awareness of the objectives that the port is trying to achieve helps in the success of implementation. The benefits of implementing an environmental management system in the Ports of Truro and Penryn are discussed in Box 12.

Whether an environmental management system is being developed for the purpose of specific accreditation or simply to provide a more strategic approach to a port's existing management procedures and reviews, the key steps involved in setting up and implementing the system are the same. A brief summary of these steps is contained in Appendix G, which draws on the guidance for participants in EMAS published by the Institute of Environmental Assessment (1998) and the guide for integrating conservation into environmental management systems published by the Earthwatch (1998).

Environmental Management System in the Ports of Truro and Penryn

The Ports of Truro and Penryn have been implementing an environmental management system in the Fal Estuary for several years. Their activities attracted the interest of English Nature who provided assistance to aid in the preparation of interpretative material and provided advice, where necessary, in achieving objectives and targets set by the port. The Ports describe many benefits from implementing the environmental management system. Perhaps the greatest benefits arise from simply keeping records of information and quantified data on the ports’ activities, operations and developments. A more specific benefit came from a review of suppliers undertaken as part of the management system, which resulted in the purchase and use of pontoons made of recyclable plastic which has a much longer design life than wooden alternatives. The environmental management system is in the process of being registered for ISO 14001 accreditation (Brigden personal communication 1998).

Further guidance is provided in the PIANC environmental management framework for ports and related industries, which provides generic guidelines for managing environmental issues based on the principle of sustainable development. This framework can be tailored to meet the needs of the full range of relevant individual organisations, covering all activities associated with waterborne transport and its infrastructure, as well as being able to conform to international standards for environmental management if required (PIANC in preparation).

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