ECONOMY

Piraeus Port slated for eco-upgrade

piraeus-port-slated-for-eco-upgrade

The port of Piraeus is one of the biggest cargo gateways into Europe, coming fourth in container traffic and first in ship arrivals and departures. Every year, more than 5 million cargo containers and 20 million passengers pass through Greece’s biggest port. However, its location right in the middle of Piraeus does not just bring economic growth to the city; it also has a significant environmental impact.

How extensive is this impact? Which parts of the city are most affected by the noise and emissions? Can this impact be recorded in real time and can forecasts be made so that authorities can take timely measures?

The answers to these and other questions will be provided by a new platform for measuring the port’s environmental performance by using artificial intelligence technology to process an enormous volume of information collected by sensors around the port, on vehicles and also within the city. The platform is being developed in the framework of the European Union’s Green C Ports project, which recently received the World Port Sustainability Award from the prestigious International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH).

Green C Ports is being developed at five European locations: Piraeus, Valencia, Bremen, Venice and Wilhelmshaven. Apart from recording and forecasting atmospheric and noise pollution levels, the project partnerswill also be testing a series of innovative solutions for reducing congestion and noise levels and improving air quality. The project’s Greek contingent is made up of the research Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and the Municipality of Piraeus, with the participation of Zen Travel Ltd and Global Maritime Agency Ltd in the pilot phase.

“OLP will set up a network of environmental and meteorological sensors at strategic locations within the port, as well as sensors measuring noise levels. Similar sensors will be placed around the city area near the port by the Municipality of Piraeus, while Zen Travel and Global Maritime will fit sensors on trucks and tour buses traveling next to and around the port. Right now, we are at the stage of procuring the equipment,” the manager of the project for OLP, Dimitris Spyrou, tells Kathimerini.

“The next step is the pilot phase, taking measurements, processing the data, creating models for a more analytical understanding and interpretation of the situation, and simulations and forecasts, so that the authorities can take a serious approach to incidents of pollution,” he adds.

The entire project has been designed on the premise of studying real conditions. “The idea is for processes and solutions that are instantly applicable. The EU is providing funding through the Connecting Europe Facility for the direct implementation of the research findings,” explains Dr Angelos Amditis, the supervisor of the pilot program at Piraeus Port and head of research at the ICCS.

“Our goal is for the port to continue growing at the present rate or at an even greater pace, but in a way that leaves the smallest possible environmental footprint on Piraeus and the surrounding municipalities. By using advanced technological and digital tools we are preparing the transition to an age where environmental targets and the port’s growth can proceed together harmoniously,” adds Amditis.

The NTUA’s Institute of Communication and Computer Systems is responsible for developing the platform where the data will be collected and processed, while also extracting conclusions and developing the necessary tools and installing the sensor sets.

“It is a very important program for the environment and a very nice example of cooperation between municipal and port authorities, major research centers and small and medium-sized businesses, both Greek and foreign, in order to share the results and the benefits of the program with all the relevant agencies, with users and with society,” says Amditis.

“The coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of changes, but, thankfully, the EU remains committed to implementing the European Green Deal for a more climate neutral continent. Significant initiatives have already been undertaken in Greece by the Environment and Energy Ministry to achieve the ambitious targets the deal sets out. The new measures for promoting the use of electric vehicles and on environmental matters are headed in the right direction. As far as this particular project is concerned, Green C Ports is also part of the European Green Deal framework for cleaner transportation. Its international recognition also demonstrates that reducing the environmental impact of ports is not just high on the new European ‘green’ agenda, but also a global priority,” explains Amditis.

“The main idea is how we can achieve a climate neutral but also competitive and sustainable European economy, where transportation and the supply chain – which are estimated to contribute to 25% of total pollution in Europe right now – are a key pillar, without suffering job losses and reducing the EU’s competitiveness,” he adds.

According to the expert, the present health crisis can be attributed “to a degree” to uncontrolled growth and the impact of human activity on nature. “I believe that it’s a very serious warning that we have to do something very soon,” says Amditis.