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Education is key for a new society

Eduard Rodés - Director of the Escola Europea Intermodal Transport

Written by: Eduard Rodés, director of the Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport

As I write this, 2021 is coming to an end. Much like 2020, it has been one for the history books. Unlike 2020, however, it has been filled with silver linings. This year, at the Escola, we have successfully expanded our operations in the Italian shores, adapted our training programmes to the digital sphere (in response to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions), and successfully created a virtual port community that allows us to mimic freight forwarding operations in door-to-door supply chains. What does all of this mean, in the greater scheme of things? I have recently written an article, which was originally published on the CETMO website (in Spanish), which considered the implications of the changing nature of our societies on the educational and professional worlds. I thought that, to close the year, it would be good to share this article with you all. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any thoughts or comments on it, feel free to write to us – this topic (as almost anything these days) is a fluid one and welcomes varying perspectives. 

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to all of you who were, one way or another, influenced or affected by the Escola and our educational offers. 

“Paideía – “education” in Greek – for some becomes the only task worth devoting themselves to in life. The meaning of the word becomes richer and richer, and when Romans like Varron or Cicero needed to translate it into Latin, they chose the term “humanitas”. It became the starting point of European humanism and its later radiations”.

Irene Vallejo – Infinity in a Reed: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World

A new world?

We live at a time when the model of society is evolving at an accelerated pace, leading to a rethinking of many things. We all have a certain awareness that we will have to change the way we understand our society, and that this will involve a transition that will reshape our roles, what we are able to give and what we can expect to receive. We are also aware of the need to continue educating ourselves and our children and future generations about what each of us can and should contribute to society. To understand each other and to move forward, I believe it is necessary for us to specify the points or principles from which to start. In my view, our rights are legitimised when we fulfil our obligations. In order to arrive at education, I believe it is necessary to start from experiences that will predetermine the steps to be taken.

In all the things that are changing, the first element is globalisation, and as everything becomes globalised it seems clear that the United Nations, as a body representing all nations, has an important role to play in this transition. Its role is being debated, and has been debated even more as a result of the previous belligerent US administration on many fronts. In 2017, the United States decided to abandon the Paris Agreement signed by 194 nations in 2015, which aims to keep this century’s global temperature rise to well below 2°C pre-industrial levels, and to make efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Upon taking office, President Joe Biden decided to return to the pact in January 2021 with the goal of bringing the country back into the Paris Agreement and joining the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and individuals who are taking ambitious action to address the climate crisis.

It is very important that countries are able to agree on global issues in order to deal with the adverse effects that climate change is currently causing coherently. It is even more important for these efforts help mobilise cities, businesses and individuals.

This strategy must be framed within the programme of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030, whose, in my opinion, global approach must be highlighted. A basic pillar is that the goals cannot be achieved in isolation and that they must all be achieved to make their success possible. This requires the involvement and commitment of everyone.

A second element is the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has evolved into a global problem in which countries, hand in hand with the United Nations, have had to coordinate and fight together to fence off the attacks of the virus, which by its very nature does not respect borders. Dealing with the pandemic has brought about a radical change in living and working habits. For almost two years, the way we do things and the way we communicate has undergone a major shift. There has been a digital explosion that has substantially transformed many sectors, and these effects will forever change the way we understand relationships and work.

A third element stems from substantial changes in production and supply patterns. It became apparent that large ships can block a vital transit points in international trade, such as the Suez Canal, that there are no containers to meet shippers’ demands, and that freight rates change the basis of the cost structures on which operations were designed. The VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment takes over and many of the basic paradigms begin to change.

The world has suddenly become too small for us, and we are now in the process of rebuilding a new reality that will doubtlessly be different. In the 5th century BC, Athens, invaded by the Persians, sought self-awareness. In other words, it sought to rebuild a new reality, with what they called Paideia or new culture. The German philologist Werner Jaeger gave it a more precise and evocative meaning in his great work: “Paideia or the formation of Greek man”. For him, Paideia stands for an education provided both by the city and by a formal education that is in harmony with what the city teaches informally. It could be summarised as follows: we can only form (in the sense of conceiving) on the ideas by which we were formed (in the sense of modelling) … and vice versa. Commenting on Plato and Protagoras, Jaeger wrote: “the harmony and rhythm of music must be communicated to the soul so that it, in turn, becomes harmonious and obeys the rhythmic laws.” (Paideia, p.361). This training was called Areté and was given to young Athenians in three areas: physical, mental and spiritual education. As a whole, it would be what we can today call civic education oriented in the light of their virtues and their devotion to public life.

A new education?

In the development of the learning model, in which it is necessary to re-interpret the role of the student and the teacher, it is prudent to consider the characteristics that it should have in terms of its possibility of adapting to the scenarios in which the education is to be carried out. In the course of the last decades there has been an evolution from a type of education called behaviourism to a new one called constructivism.

The conductive (behaviouralist) model is governed by a pre-set programme in which the teacher is the guide and instructor and the pupil is merely the recipient of this knowledge. This model was predominant until the middle of the last century.

From the end of the 20th century onwards, the constructivist model was developed, based mainly on the ideas of the Swiss epistemologist Jean Piaget. In the constructivist model, the protagonist is the learner, who plays an active role and must construct his or her own learning. The teacher in this case is a facilitator who guides and facilitates knowledge.  The very dynamic of the learning process is action-oriented, which favours its application in the business world.

In the case of projective education, learning is based on the creation of projects and the student must develop his or her research potential and put his or her conclusions into practice, using theory as one of the tools for their realisation.

The Escola Europea, since its inception, has been committed to a hybrid model based on constructivism and projectivism through practical experiences with our means (transport equipment and infrastructures) and the use of digital tools. This is attempt to respond to the new reality to be built in which the student is the protagonist of the learning process and in which practice is combined with the development of social skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, rhetoric and public speaking. Digitalisation plays a fundamental role, as it allows us to create virtual worlds that mirror physical realities at a negligible cost. The tools that have been developed in recent years mainly for driving vehicles, especially expensive ones (planes, ships, trains, space shuttles, etc.) are now entering the world of business and operations. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are becoming fundamental resources for education.

The YEP MED Project, which began in 2020 under the framework of the ENI-CBC MED Programme of the European Union, has entered this new territory through the creation of the portvirtuallab.com platform in which a Logistics-Port Community made up of avatars of the companies that comprise it makes the simulation of operations between the different operators in door-to-door transactions in international trade possible.  The contents have focused on the management of sustainable import and export operations in international trade from the perspective of a freight forwarding company. With this approach, it was necessary to understand the door-to-door operations and the entire logistics chain to be served, its external costs, passing through the ports and their operators: terminals, consignees, port authorities, customs, etc. The result has been surprising for everyone, as it has allowed the parties to reproduce operations that are practically identical to those from the real world, albeit in a virtual business environment. What started as a problem – with the forced implementation of e-learning as a consequence of the closing of all borders – has turned into an opportunity and the start of a new generation of simulation-based educational tools.

This opens up new training perspectives in which students can build their own training by carrying out projects on the import and export of goods, in which they have to collaborate in teams with students from other countries in order to successfully complete their operations – all from the convenience of their computers. The teachers become tutors and accompany them in the work of constructing the proposals and in carrying out the scaffolding to achieve the success of the projects to be carried out by each team. This teamwork, which corresponds to the current reality of companies, is a fundamental part of the learning process.

New professional profiles?

Education must respond to the challenges that societies face. Digitalisation, sustainability, English, the circular economy, blue skills… We have had a sabbatical year (actually six months) so to speak – one that made us rethink an important part of the educational strategies and forced us to take a major leap forward. As the young people in Spain would say, we have skipped four screens – by-passed many steps accelerated further by the challenging circumstances of the past two years.

All these elements, which were already important, have become critical for all companies in the sector. Digitalisation became a major element in the design of solutions. The internationalisation of the economy has become a fundamental element of progress in our economy for the well-being of our region. The environment is becoming a critical and discriminating element in terms of the viability of operations, becoming a fundamental part of the configuration of all the elements involved in the sector; from infrastructures to the design of products, taking into account the distribution processes and their recycling. These gave rise to so-called Multi-Local companies – small multinationals that export to and from innumerable countries. This calls for a new culture and a new way of doing things. To make this accelerated transition possible, adequate and easily accessible training will be necessary.

The MEDPorts Association carried out a study to identify professions that are needed in ports but which are not yet covered and in some cases not existing. The results were combinations of the requirements described above oriented to specific areas:

 

Algorithm expert

The responsibility of this expert will be to analyse information and evaluate results in order to choose the best solution and solve problems using algorithms. He/she/they will be an expert in algorithm design and software development.

Head of cyber security

Their primary responsibilities will be to protect Port Authorities by developing security-focused strategies, effectively integrating and managing new or existing technology systems to deliver continuous operational improvements, and detect, respond to and mitigate threats. This role will require a deep understanding of cyber security capabilities including security and privacy strategies and governance, IT risks, security testing, technology implementation/operations and cyber crime.

Drones expert

This expert will be responsible for operating, testing and repairing drone devices to be used in a port. This role will require extensive knowledge of robotics.

Legal IT expert

This expert will analyse information and evaluate how to find the best/most creative solutions within the framework of the law and take advantage of the possibilities offered by new IT developments.

Robotisation/automation expert

They will be responsible for planning, implementing and coordinating the progress of automation and robotics projects in port authorities. He/she will also provide judgement and analysis for the design, development and implementation of plans and procedures related to automation and robotics in ports. This profile may include a mechanical version that will have to build, install, test or maintain robotic equipment or related automated production systems.

 

Environmental Area

Energy transition manager

This manager will be responsible for the development of tailor-made energy transition plans in port authorities that will bring significant environmental and economic benefits. They should have the research and innovation capacity to find the best solutions to improve efficiency and environmental performance.

Waste management expert

This person will plan, implement and coordinate waste management systems designed to maximise opportunities for waste prevention, reuse and recycling. They will provide guidance to improve efficiency, while addressing issues of sustainable waste collection, disposal, resource management and other related special features, including waste avoidance strategies at ports.

Cruise & city-port area

 

City-port relationship manager

Managing the city-port relationship more strategically is now fundamental for ports. It is one of the most important challenges facing city ports today. This professional will have the responsibility to show the way forward to transform the city-port relationship into a more productive one. They will have to lead the re-evaluation of the city-port relationship that questions everything from the structure of the port authorities to what the realistic expectations of their stakeholders should be.

Cruise and tourism marketing director

The responsibility of this professional will be to promote the Port Authority as a preferred cruise destination and to achieve the planned growth and development of the sector. Close coordination with the city’s tourism managers will be essential. In carrying out this function, the Cruise and Tourism Marketing Manager will have to interact with the main partners in the private and public sector.

Other

 

Cold chain supply expert

Due to the increasing relevance of cold chain traffic, the position of cold supply chain expert will be needed to ensure the functioning of cold supply chains in ports. To do so, the supply chain expert will have to monitor stocks and orders as well as forecast future supply needs. This function combines analysis and reporting to ensure smooth transit of goods through the ports.

Emergency manager

The main duty of this post will be to protect and preserve security in the port. Responsibilities include coordinating emergency response efforts and ensuring that the emergency authorities’ plans are properly implemented.

Expert in intelligent energy networks (Smart grids)

Smart grid engineers are responsible for designing systems that can regulate smart grids and make them work efficiently. The main focus of their work will be to improve energy distribution by making power grids more efficient. Their job will be to develop design plans and evaluate the effectiveness of these designs.

Intermodal network manager

This manager will be a key contributor to the Port Authorities’ strategy. This position is a key element for any business where freight transport is essential. It will coordinate the main intermodal networks of the ports and ensure their efficiency and fluidity.

Public-private partnership manager

The main function of this manager will be to lead and support the creation of policies, strategies and programmes to accelerate private sector development and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in ports. They will also be involved in the development, structuring and delivery of PPP projects as well as port cooperation initiatives with public-private components. They will work directly with governments, private sector investors and financial institutions.

This exercise of identifying new profiles could be done with all types of companies in the sector, and the results would undoubtedly be remarkable.  This leads us to a disturbing reflection: are there teachers and training programmes to teach these subjects?

From the Escola’s experience we know that there are teachers who, by making an effort to adapt, can begin to prepare the contents and materials with the collaboration of the educational centres and, increasingly, the developers of training software. The Escola has recently carried out the first course of the programme derived from this study, dedicated to energy transition in port authorities. To prepare this course has not been an easy task and required the help and involvement of many experts.

What will we have to change?

A new society, with a new education, for new professional profiles necessarily leads us to the question of how training centres, their teachers and the students themselves will have to evolve. In a world in which the speed of change is constantly accelerating, it is necessary to build a model that allows rapid adaptation to these changes, at the risk of others being able to do so more efficiently, which could mean a significant competitive disadvantage.

The necessary adaptation process is not the result of individual action. It must necessarily involve a shared and synchronised strategy that must anticipate the general changes that may occur and how to deal with them well in advance.

A major part of this must involve joint collaboration between companies, knowledge centres and public administrations, which must be capable of adapting to the changes so that there are no distortions in the development of companies and in working conditions.

Collaboration and coordinated work by all the actors in order not to miss the boat. The development of the MEDPorts Partnership training programme would be a good example. Four training centres from four different countries have agreed to develop courses to start training in the profiles described. All the centres are directly involved in some of the content prepared by the other centres. This makes it possible to prepare a significant volume of training material in a relatively short period of time. Ports that compete with each other collaborate in training, and this is a powerful message for society.

Conclusions

Communities that progress are those that are able to adapt and learn.  Those that have the ambition to progress, which build on principles based on values, must first accept that today almost everything remains to be learned.  We must build a new world with new tools. We are facing energy, economic, digital, social and many other transitions. Each change will require new knowledge and new skills. It is the time for training, and this training must become part of our daily reality.

In the Mediterranean, the port sector must be a driving force for change. It must encourage and facilitate the processes of digitalisation, innovation, social, environmental and economic sustainability. The future will heavily depend on the ability to exchange goods and services, and goods will largely have to pass through ports. A very high percentage of companies will be influenced by the efficiency of their operators. Proper education and training is essential to help us achieve this. If it takes the creation of numerous specialised training centres, let us do it to make it possible.

Connecting Europe Express

Written by: Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska – Digital Communications Manager Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport

As 2021 is drawing to a close, it is interesting to consider how far rail has progressed this year. With the 2021 Climate Conference highlighting the needs of the developed nations to hasten their efforts to curb CO2 emissions, the concept of rail has gained further promise in the eyes of many European governments. In this #DidYouKnow article, and in anticipation of the 2021 SURCO Operations II course which will take place in the first month of 2022, we decided to focus on one experiment recently launched by the European Union to try to evaluate the status of rail on the European continent – namely the Connecting Europe Express.

What is (was) the Connecting Europe Express?

The project was launched by the European Union to shine a spotlight on the various interoperability issues that currently plague the continent, as well as to highlight the cooperation of many companies and implicated parties from different nations. The project, which involved one train journey, lasted 36 days visiting 26 European countries with the ultimate goal of helping the public better understand what difficulties European rail faces in current times in efforts to become the preferred mode for both passengers and freight.

The actual “Express” comprised 3 gauges trains to allow for transit in all of the countries on the itinerary. Throughout its journey, which began on the 2nd of September 2021, the train traversed 20 000km through 33 border crossings. It made 100 stops and included 5 overnight trips. It did all of this with the support of more than 40 railway partners from numerous European countries.  It began its journey in Lisbon (Portugal) and arrived at its final destination in Paris on the 7th of October 2021.

Freight transport in the spotlight

There is no doubt that freight transport has a myriad of advantages over other forms of transport – notably in terms carbon emissions, comfort and cost. Though it is not without faults, it does provide an excellent solution to many transport companies who are seeking to diminish their carbon footprints and help bring to life the climate-protecting goals set by international organisations.

The Connecting Europe Express showed that through rail, both passengers and businesses could benefit. The project also shone a spotlight on the work that the European Union still has left in terms of conflicting and incomplete infrastructures that complicate the train journeys on the continent (the three gauges being one of the complications).

In terms of freight transport, the Express  was able to educate the public on the concept of the rolling roads. The train stopped at the Brenner Pass in Austria during its journey – a vital opportunity to highlight the advantages of train for truckers. The Brenner Pass is a connecting point from the road to the “rolling road” – a concept that allows trucks to pass certain segments of their journeys on the trains. The trucks can roll onto the trains, giving the drivers the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of a passenger train carriage. The rolling roads can now transport most types of lorries and have proven to be safe and cost-preserving (with the possibilities of avoiding tolls and fuel charges). The added publicity and awareness that was raised during this stop helped shine some light on such complementary options for truckers and road transport companies.

 The European Year Rail

This year has been declared the European Year of Rail. The European Union has spent the year promoting this mode of transport in spite of the complications imposed by the Covid-19 restrictions. The Connecting Europe Express was the EU’s flagship project – it helped both raise awareness for everything that rail has to offer, and to highlight what still must be done to ensure the optimal use of this mode.

Intermodal transport is the lifeline of the Escola Europea, and we have been offering courses that highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the various modes of transport since our inception. Rail became a staple of our courses in 2009 with the launch of SURCO (Simple Use Railway Connections). Our training offer continually adapts to the technological, environmental, and societal changes that take place in the sector, and the courses offer real-life case studies from professionals active in the sector. Our SURCO Operations II course also includes visits to Perpignan, where participants can witness actual rolling road operations in the Le Boulou Lorry Rail terminal.

If you are interested to learn more, you can head to the SURCO page on our website, or find out more about our upcoming course in January here.

Sources:

UN Sustainable Development Goals Wheel

Progress Networks

On the 15th anniversary of the Escola Europea

Written by Eduard Rodés, Director of the Escola Europea

Written by Eduard Rodés, Director of the Escola Europea

It is unusual for a European project to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The Escola started its activities in 2004 for the promotion of short sea shipping in the Port of Barcelona with the 2E3S project funded by the European Marco Polo Programme. DG-MOVE created the Programme in 2003 with the aim of reducing road congestion, improving the environmental performance of the freight transport system in the European Community and promoting intermodality, thus contributing to an efficient and sustainable transport system. At the time the Port of Barcelona had two shipping lines operated by the shipping companies GNV and Grimaldi Lines connecting Genoa and Civitavecchia, which responded to the Commission’s approach. Organising courses to promote their use for road transport was a good practice for all.

The Marco Polo Programme offered a new approach to freight transport with the following objectives:

  • Using alternatives to road, such as short sea shipping, rail and inland waterways;
  • Supporting innovations that help overcome technical barriers to intermodal transport;
  • Using Motorways of the Sea in combination with other modes of transport;
  • Reducing the need to transport goods by road through improved logistics;
  • Addressing training and other soft factors within the transport business.

The initial project that created the Escola was followed by two others in the same Programme, which were adapted to its objectives : GLAD (Green Logistics Action and Deployment) for the internationalisation of the Escola’s activities to other countries of the European Union – through a network of countries; and LIFE (Logistics Intermodal Freight Enhancement) for the implementation of training activities that focused on rail intermodality: railway network.

The fact that the Escola obtained three consecutive projects from the Marco Polo Programme gives us an idea of the uniqueness of the activities and its unprecedented value. The realization of the courses, considering the participation of students and teachers from Belgium, Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, gave rise to the creation of a network of professionals specialized in intermodal transport of the first order.

History cannot be explained without recalling that the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) were (and still are) a crucial element in the European transport policy. Their strategic importance was reaffirmed with the revision of the TEN-T guidelines, which defined the MoS as the “maritime dimension of the Trans-European Transport Network”.

The revision of the TEN-T guidelines is inspired by the White Paper “Roadmap to a Single European Transport: Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system” published in 2011. That document changed many things because, in a way, all of us who work in the world of transport and ports began to understand the system as a network to be built. A network that requires efficient and resilient infrastructures, clean and sustainable energy, and integrated and easily accessible communication and documentation exchange systems. It also meant that the maritime dimension is part of the land dimension. That maritime, road, rail and waterway services are elements of the same system and must operate collaboratively and in synchronicity to offer competitive solutions.

The Escola has identified its 15th anniversary with the construction of such networks. Networks are a main element in the construction and progress of societies.  I use the word progress, and not development, consciously and intentionally. I believe that one of the main debates in our society today is to decide whether we direct our efforts to the continuing policies of growth or whether we contribute to the construction of a new society that seeks the welfare of people through sustainable economic, social and environmental policies.

The three basic networks that shape our economy and our way of life are transport, energy and communications.  Ports have been major nodes in the structuring of these networks and have facilitated the movement of people and goods over centuries. The people involved have brought and carried knowledge, culture, art and customs between territories. In one word, progress.

Over the past fifteen years the Escola has made a small contribution to these developments. It did so by trying to make ports the engine of change; training the people who decide and manage logistics chains to make decisions based on social values and virtues (in the Greek sense of the word ‘virtue’); all of which brought the capacity to bring about improvements for society. It also contributed to the creation of a network of complicity based on the sharing of an alternative way of thinking and acting – one that is based on who we are and what we do, and that seeks a better world for everyone.

This network was built little by little, incorporating training centres from other countries, training trainers, training professionals and students. It was built by creating strong and committed logistic-port communities, capable of working together to do things better.

The Escola is a small actor in the large network of people, institutions and companies that seeks to achieve the sustainable development goals of the United Nations by 2030. In that year the Escola will turn 24 years old, or 25 if we count from the start of regular courses in 2005. I would like for all 17 SGGs to be achieved by then, and that with our activities we will have contributed to achieving them. We will continue working to try to do so, knowing that what is important is the journey, the companions on the journey, the values that inspire it, the discoveries we will make in each port we meet and the communities we want to build.

I would like Europe to be able to look at what started as a project for the promotion of a transport network, and turned into a network of people and collaborations of Mediterranean ports working together for a better society, with pride.

Eduard Rodés

Director

Arete Statue

Human Capital

On the 15th anniversary of the Escola Europea

Written by: Damià Calvet, president of the Escola Europea and the Port de Barcelona

I took up the post of the president of the Port of Barcelona a few months ago, and in this time I have been experiencing a multifaceted reality of the port – or ports, because there are more than one – which includes its different activities, projects and the people that comprise its community.

In the planning of the duties that have been entrusted to me when I was appointed, I always keep the mission of the institution that I represent in mind. According to the recently approved 4th Strategic Plan, the port was recognised as the body responsible for guaranteeing services that facilitate the competitiveness of its customers, and that create value for society: through infrastructures and services offered to the society to which it is indebted.

For the first time the 4th Strategic Plan was drafted with the collaboration of the Port-Logistics Community. Five work groups were created based on the main areas of activity and traffic of the port, fostering a participatory and integrative model that included not only the port community but the end customers as well, alongside all public and private agents involved and interested in the future of the port.

This means that an important part of the outcome of the port’s strategic approach depends on the people who work in the port community, and therefore its limit is the capacity and success of those who make up its human capital. More than 200 representatives of the stakeholders of the port logistics community wished to be involved in the drafting of the plan.

The Fourth Strategic Plan opts for a three-dimensional Strategic Objective, which reflect the three pillars of sustainability -the first attribute of the logistics hub of Barcelona – economic, environmental and social. The three parts are considered inseparable, therefore achieving one of the parts without the other two cannot be considered a success. All three parts must be achieved simultaneously. The port cannot grow economically without reducing the environmental footprint of its activities or without consolidating quality employment.

The Port’s Strategic Objective is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs focus on the same three components of sustainable development that underscore this strategic plan and the action plan for the next five years.

For social sustainability the recovery and slight increase in pre-COVID-19 employment is vital despite the intense processes of digitalisation and teleworking. Quality employment on port land is the main benefit that the Port brings to the community that hosts it and compensates for its negative externalities and the physical and mental barriers involved in the fact that it lies in a privileged location for citizens.

Collaboration among members of the port-logistics community becomes a must. This includes a considerable spirit of collaboration with all public and private entities with which the port is obliged to interact, especially with the two cities on whose land it lies, Barcelona and El Prat de Llobregat. It is vital to deepen the cooperation with the organisations lying near the port and especially with the Consortium of the Free Zone (Zona Franca), Mercabarna and the Airport of Barcelona. We need to make the most of the synergies of these three entities to generate wealth and employment. Collaboration with other ports, both nearby (Tarragona first and foremost) and far away, and with logistics operators located outside the port precinct, comprise one of the main added values of Barcelona with respect to other port competences. The ports also mustn’t forget the training centres and research bodies.

Proposal of the Placeta de l'Arete

Proposal of the Placeta de l’Arete

The port must put people at the forefront, setting social cohesion as an essential objective of its strategy by generating high-quality diversified employment. It must orient its strategy towards the interests of two main groups: port workers and the citizens of the two host cities, Barcelona and El Prat del Llobregat. It can do so through fostering training, employment, entrepreneurship and talent attraction; promoting equal opportunities; integrating the port into the urban and metropolitan environment; and finally, ensuring the health, safety and security of people and facilities.

Promoting the employability of people in our immediate surroundings will facilitate the creation of new companies through entrepreneurship and the development of an innovation ecosystem in the logistics and transport field to help attract talent and thus offset automation and digitalisation processes that involve a net destruction of jobs.

The promotion of the Blue Economy will create new jobs and this calls for an integrated port-logistics training centre as part of the knowledge, innovation and training hub at the port of Barcelona. This will serve to promote port culture and port identity and foster knowledge of the port among the populace.

Gender equality and multiculturalism in the port environment are factors that contribute decisively to turning organisations into innovators and leaders in our hinterland: the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, Catalonia, Aragon and the Eastern Pyrenees. This also applies to our sea hinterland: Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Libya. Tunis, Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

The Escola must play a leading role in the development of this strategy. From its knowledge of these areas and its proven effectiveness in international projects where knowledge – Sapientia – plays a fundamental role.

May this Sapientia illuminate the path we must travel together.

Happy anniversary!

Hydrogen

A Spotlight on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Written by Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Digital Communications

Over the past decade hydrogen has really taken centre stage in the search for an alternative fuel for maritime transport. Different applications of the gas have been researched and trialled in various maritime scenarios. The most recent and most successful case in recent years, without a doubt, has been the development and implementation of hydrogen fuel cells. In this #DidYouKnow article we take a look at this technology and consider its impact on the maritime industry.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Fuel cell technology has been around since the early 1800s. A fuel cell is an “electrochemical energy conversion device that was invented in 1839 by William Grove to produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water” (GenCell Energy). Like regular batteries, fuel cell batteries can convert potential energy into electricity, and result in heat as a by-product. In the 1950s, in the heart of the Cold War arms and space races that took place between the USA and USSR, liquid hydrogen was explored as a powerful fuel and finally used to send rockets into space – taking it one step closer towards the hydrogen fuel cell.

In recent years this technology has been considered for freight transport journeys. As more and more research is being done on different sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, fuel cell technology took centre stage. Using the example of green hydrogen to power ships, researches have adapted Grove’s traditional concept to be able to use hydrogen’s energy and convert it to electricity and heat, and therewith power the vessels’ propulsion mechanisms. In other words, hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen, and therewith produce electricity. The hydrogen is sourced from a tank that is built into the cell, where it then reacts with oxygen that is “sourced” from air. The resulting chemical reaction produces electricity, water and heat. The water and heat are released as water vapours, and thus are considered zero-emission by-products.

The electricity provides continuous energy to the ships as long as the cell is fed with the “fuel” – in this case hydrogen gas. This proves to be an advantage over conventional electric batteries that have a fixed shelf-life or need recharging . Fuel cells generate very little noise pollution, can easily be modified for different-sized vessels, and have no distinct moving parts. There is a general consensus that the vast majority of vessels could easily be retro-fitted with this technology – therewith lowering the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.

Hydrogen Sourcing

 It is not difficult to understand why scientists are excited about such capabilities of hydrogen – as it is the most abundant element on our planet. However, it is rare to find it in its isolated form. It can found in water and other hydrocarbon chemical elements such as methane. In order for it to be used in hydrogen fuel cells, the element needs to first be isolated through chemical, biological or solar-driven processes. (An interesting side-note is that nearly 85% of hydrogen is already being produced daily in fossil fuel refineries during the processes of removing sulphur from gasoline).

There are sustainable sourcing solutions utilised by some companies in the world. Hydrogen can be produced using biogas, or through electrolysis that uses electricity generated by solar or wind power. Relying on such sourcing alternatives will help keep CO2 emissions low from the entire hydrogen fuel operation in the transport sector.

Sustainable Shipping

One kilogram of hydrogen has the same energy density as a gallon of diesel.

At the end of the noughts, the European Commission began to direct its policies more actively towards sustainable transport amid growing concerns related to climate change. In the 2008 European Strategic Energy Technology Plan, hydrogen and fuel cells were singled out as the new technologies that would help the transport sector achieve a 60-80% reduction in GHG by the middle of the century.

Because hydrogen fuel cells already exist, and don’t require a huge investment of shipowners to install them in vessels, they are being considered as a fore-runner in the field. William Alan Reinsch, Scholl Chair in International Business estimates that “hydrogen fuel could replace 43 percent of voyages between the United States and China without any changes, and 99 percent of voyages with minor changes to fuel capacity or operations.”

Currently there is already one hydrogen powered ship – the Energy Observer – carrying out a six-year trip around the world. In its virgin voyage, the ship uses solar panels, wind and wave turbines to power the process. Its success coud determine whether the method could prove efficient and effective for various ocean voyages.

Challenges to Hydrogen

It wouldn’t be prudent to assume that hydrogen was the faultless solution that would eliminate all GHG within the shipping industry – as it has some challenges and complications. Hydrogen gas is extremely flammable, and its chemical properties mean that it can burn at both low and high concentrations when combined with oxygen in an uncontrolled reaction. Shipowners need to make sure that important safety measures are in place to lower the risk of such explosions during their transport and storage.

An added complication that would need to be addressed is that the element (even in its liquid form) is very energy dense. This means that the fuel cells themselves take up more volume on larger vessels – potentially lowering the profitability of the voyages themselves for ship owners (with diminished cargo spaces on the vessels themselves).

Finally, the cost of the type of hydrogen sources is also important to take into account. Hydrogen Fuel Cells use so-called “Green Hydrogen” (there are three types – Gray, Blue and Green, with Green being touted as the most ecologically sourced) – which currently is the most expensive hydrogen available on the market. For the shipping industry to be truly sustainable, this is the hydrogen type that would need to be used, and therefore its costs would need to be adjusted to make it appealing to the private sector.

A Greener Future

There is no doubt that the path ahead for the shipping industry is difficult and full of unknowns. There is no one-answer-fits-all solution to try to eliminate GHG emission from the oceanic trades. Different solutions are currently being tested and are being developed at astonishing rates. More than one would need to exist for the goals set by the IMO for 2050 to be reached.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells are proving to be very effective and, if embraced by the shipping industry, could prove integral towards the goal of zero emissions maritime transport. Even though no giant vessels have embraced the technology, smaller ferries and ships have begun operating in the USA, France, Norway and Belgium. Moreover, “oil major Royal Dutch Shell has invested in several hydrogen production projects in Europe and China, arguing that hydrogen is “advantaged over other potential zero-emissions fuels for shipping,” as attested by William Alan Reinsch – a huge sign that even the traditional fuel sourcing companies are coming on board.

There is still a long road ahead, but with the continuous innovations from scientists and financial contributions from big players in the industry, the goal of achieving global net zero emissions by 2050 could, perhaps, be attainable. Hydrogen fuel cells could be responsible for a significant step in that direction.

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Container terminal at the Port of Long Beach

Zero Emissions future – the case of the Port of Long Beach

Written by Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Digital Communications

A net-zero operating terminal is a milestone that most ports around the globe are working towards – as it would mark a significant step towards sustainability. This summer, one port has achieved this remarkable step and begun operating a container terminal that is equipped with nearly all electric and zero-emissions equipment. Already news sources are reporting it as one of the most technologically advanced cargo terminals globally. We are, of course, talking about the Port of Long Beach – and the Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor (in California, USA) – and we wanted to take a look at it in this #DidYouKnow article.

A decade in the making

The port begun work on the project in May 2011, with an initial estimated cost of $1.5bln. The project was divided in three distinct phases. The first phase was completed in 2016, after which 151 acres opened for business. The next year the terminal was expanded to reach 191 acres, and the final phase of the project ended in July 2021. The Container Terminal now boasts with 300 acres in size, has a completed container yard, a modern administration buiding and an on-dock rail yard to allow for intermodal traffic. The concrete wharf can also receive and process three massive ships at once, with fourteen gantry cranes able to service the shoreline.

The terminal is expected to expand through the North Gate Expansion by 2025, adding an additional 3 acres to the already impressive surface area of the facility.

Net zero emissions

It is doubtlessly difficult for ports to make sure that their operations are carbon neutral – and in line with the global environmental agencies recommendations for the protection of our climate. How did the Port of Long Beach achieve its net zero emissions?

First of all – it ensured sufficient on-shore power supply stations on the berths. All of the vessels are now able to shut down the diesel engines while stationed in port and can connect to the local electrical grid.

Secondly, during the construction it was ensured that all of the major structures were built with features that allow them to save both electricity and water, meeting the American Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

In-terminal operations are carried out by automated guided vehicles that rely on transponders in the asphalt to manoeuvre around the containers. These vehicles are battery-operated and are also capable of recharging themselves.

The final aspect of the Californian terminal is the emphasis that has been placed on faster truck turnaround times, which further reduced the port’s emissions.

Intermodality at the forefront

There is no doubt that one of the aspects that port terminals can focus on is to increase their intermodal capacities – as bringing trucks off the roads would significantly lower the GHG emissions produced by their diesel engines. The Port of Long Beach was not an exception, and in its construction has included a intermodal rail yard that includes 70,000ft of tracks. “There are 12 tracks, and each is almost a mile long,” says Thomas Baldwin, director of project management at the port. “There are four storage tracks, and eight working tracks. Five dual cantilevered gantry cranes with room for a sixth. It’s one of most modern railyards ever built, with 1.1 million-TEU capacity ” (August 20th, 2021: ENR). In the near future, the port is also planning to expand its on-dock rail capacity to 35%, acknowledging that one fully stacked train can replace up to seventy-five trucks on the road – further alleviating the pressure on our environment.

Innovating into a clean energy future

Becoming a green port is no small feat. There are many innovative ports in the world that have already incorporated significant changes to their operations to lower their emissions and thus conform with international standards. The Long Beach Container Terminal can certainly be used as an example for other ports to follow, as it shows the signs of being the world’s first “all-electric, zero-emission mega terminal” and “will [help the port] increase [its] throughput, improve air quality and maintain [its] status as a leading gateway for trans-Pacific trade” – as was highlighted by Maria Cordero, the executive director of the port (August 23rd, 2021: Splash 247).

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The Ports of Rome and Lazio, the Italian “Community” boosting the training of logistics operators of the future

Guiliana Satta

Written by: Giuliana Satta, Port Authority of Civitavecchia

At a difficult and uncertain time such as the one linked to the pandemic crisis due to Covid-19, projects such as “Youth Employment in the Ports of the Mediterranean” are of fundamental importance, especially in view of the messages, at the European level, that are becoming the basis for the future and that are at the heart of the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Today, more than ever, it is necessary to reverse development models and in every sector. And this is what is being done through the YEP MED project, co-financed by the European Union’s ENI and led by the Escola Europea, and in which the Port System Authority of the Central-Northern Tyrrhenian Sea is the only Italian partner present. With the contribution of the entire local port logistics community, which was formed last March following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, the project aims to increase and improve employment opportunities through the creation of real dual learning programmes with job placements, therewith strengthening the role of Small and Medium Enterprises operating in port ecosystems for future jobs creation.

The port of Civitiavecchia

In today’s historical moment, the Italian Port Authority is focusing on specific training of human capital to increase the skills of each individual port operator. To ensure that this can happen, it is essential to strengthen cooperation between actors who, on a voluntary basis, as happened with the creation of the Port Logistics Community (‘Community’), a. re willing to build a common strategy to contribute to the competitiveness of the entire port system in Lazio through the development of professionalism. Together with the “Community”, the Ports of Rome and Lazio will be able to build a global strategy in relation to the development and training of human resources that will have to be in line with the new demands of the labour market. To achieve these objectives, they are working closely with specialised training institutions to develop appropriate training programmes and establishing national and transnational partnerships with members of other port communities to exchange knowledge and best and most suitable practices.

The “Community”, made up of operators, associations and institutions, will hold regular meetings which will be coordinated by the representatives of the Port Authority. This will be done on the basis of a programme that will incorporate an annual calendar and a list of training activities. The sectors in which the Port Authority will focus on will concern Ro/Ro cargo traffic and the reception of large container ships in particular, with the YEP MED project aiming to play a major role in this new phase of maritime transport and logistics.

Container traffic at the Port of Civitavecchia has been consistently growing

Another important element in this initiative of the Ports of Rome and Lazio is a view to create new and foster existing commercial links with the countries of North Africa, with the ultimate aim of better improving the cooperation between the ports of the North and South of the Mediterranean. The entire port community believes in this interesting project, which incorporates 11 partners representing 7 countries from around the Mediterranean – an area in which the port of Civitavecchia is aiming to foster growth in the coming years. Today, in order to assess the growth and strength of a port, human capital is a fundamental element: it is the actions, energy, skills, strength and enthusiasm of the people that make the difference in successful port operations. Hence the importance of the YEP MED project. Vocational and educational training are essential for the training of the workforce, particularly the technical and highly specialised workforce that should live and gravitate in and around ports. For this reason, it is necessary to develop increasingly articulated professionalism in relation to the transformations imposed on shipping and logistics by the computerisation and digitalisation of processes, which will bring about more radical changes in the next five years than those that have taken place in the last 50 years. Therefore, having a high level of professionalism today and training young people will allow us to have a growing human capital for the next 30/35 years, with prepared professionals who will be protagonists of the positive change.

Talent is our organisation’s main asset

The world of employment has always seemed daunting to young people. Having completed either higher education or specialised training programmes, young people frequently lacked the technical know-how that was expected of them from the get-go. Traditional educational models haven’t focused on practical experiences to prepare the youth for the challenges of the future. Nevertheless they have always represented talent – a sea full of potential for companies to seek new talent from. In recent years, and in particular following the technological advancements of the 21st century and the shifting employment environment after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, employers now began to focus on seeking true potential from new employees – and have begun to value life experiences and other soft skills over technical experiences that mattered so much more in the past – changing the aspects of their employability. As the Escola has been focusing on improving the employability of youth in recent years, in particular in light of the YEP MED project, we wanted to understand the approaches used by companies to source their talents.

In the following article, José del Moral from the Barcelona Talent Logistics company, talks about the evolving approaches of companies seeking new employees.

José del Moral

Written by José del Moral, CEO, Barcelona Talent Logistics

“Talent is our organisation’s main asset”. Apart from an absolute truth, this is one of the most recurring statements in the speeches of CEOs and business leaders when addressing employees in the frame of meetings and events’ celebrations.

However, how does the activity look like when it comes to Talent Acquisition and Management in the Logistics industry? Thorough studies on this subject, platforms like Glassdoor and several public/private institutions in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region seem to agree on certain trends and scenarios:

  • The average time from the moment a white collar vacancy opens up until new talent is in place is around 90 days.
  • Staff turnover in the first 3 months from start date is nearly 22%.
  • Regarding the level of satisfaction with their role, survey metrics show a range between 60-70% of detractors/neutrals out of all employees in the sample, 3 months after joining.

The above, along with massive other data and indicators, reflects an immense cost in terms of productivity, work environment, staff turnover/burnout and employee’s lack of trust, while the financial impact for the organisation is ultimately enormous.

“Talent is our organisation’s main asset” should not be just a declaration of will, but serve as the kick-off for a well-developed plan to acquire and nurture talent to the highest level according to the business needs. No excuses, no appeals. Logistics enterprises need to further develop their vision towards this subject and make a commitment to upgrade their levels of professionalism so as to improve competitiveness in the market.

Making logistics enterprises increases their competitiveness, by upgrading their acquisition and management of talent. This is the exact goal companies like Barcelona Talent Logistics focus on, while delivering excellence in 5 key stages along the way:

  1. Talent Needs Analysis: This is where one of the main problems usually lies. The lack of in-depth understanding regarding the exact need that the business requires makes the purpose of acquiring the right talent unfeasible. A clear insight into the role, its requirements, work environment, organisational culture, reporting lines, department’s structure or company’s concept must be the base line for each single process to acquire talent.
  2. Talent Mapping and Segmentation: This activity should always be conducted before the need to do so comes up. A proper identification of all potential candidates for a particular role is a work to be done upfront, not to delay the process for the acquisition of talent later on. A thorough knowledge of the logistics talent community and powerful software for talent segmentation and lead nurturing is crucial for the success of the strategy in Talent Acquisition.
  3. Candidate Assessment: Behavioural patterns are far better predictors of future performance than any other indicators in most of the roles in logistics. However, are we assessing behaviours properly, along with traits, qualities, hard skills, cognitive capabilities, expectations, motivations, financial needs,…? Once again, a great part of this activity must be performed before the need for new talent, to avoid losing efficiency afterwards throughout the process. Additionally, technology and artificial intelligence need to be applied within this stage, as we will need massive amounts of data to be exchanged with leads and candidates, all the while avoiding setting time-consuming tasks for them.
  4. Decision-Making Process: hiring managers and business leaders are the ones to decide what exact talent will be hired for a particular role. However, decisions made in this stage may lead to losses/profits in dozens of thousands of euros. Therefore, this is actually the stage where Talent Acquisition experts must provide valuable and structured information to the business more clearly, so as to maximize the chances of making the right choice.
  5. Appraisal and Performance Management: certainly, acquiring the right talent, at the right moment, in the right place is a great advantage to make the business succeed. However, employees life-cycle is influenced by a wide range of factors, which need to be assessed on a regular basis by experts in talent management. Thus, managers will have access to up-to-date data and thorough analyses concerning the talent under their scope, for them to lead their teams appropriately and create, consequently, a positive impact on the financial performance of the business.

 Logistics is one of the most added value activities across companies, thus it must be left to logistics experts. Talent, on the other hand, is the most valuable asset in any company, and thus its sourcing must be brought to talent acquisition experts.

José del Moral

Chief Executive Officer

Barcelona Talent Logistics

Clean fuels, electrification, water and hydrogen – How are ports handling energy transitions?

Written by Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Consultant

Over the past few months, a lot of our articles have focused on sustainable solutions in intermodal transport – whether they were connected to port operations, maritime transport or port-railway solutions. Focusing on alternative and clean energy solutions is vital, in particular in light of this summer’s heat waves, floods, and other weather phenomena which are gaining in strength every year. The European Union has recently renewed its dedication to the Green Deal, committing itself to substantially lowering the carbon emissions of the EU by an extremely ambitious 55% by 2030, and to eliminate net emissions by 2050. Taken together, all of this suggests that sustainability needs to take centre stage in all of our transport operations if we are to meet those goals and help protect our Blue planet.

The Escola is committed to promoting sustainable transport and incorporates its principles to all of its courses – and this is why this month we wanted to touch upon one of those. The upcoming course on Energy Transitions in Ports will take place in October of this year, and will aim to raise awareness and provide information to the management and technical staff of port authorities that are part of the MEDPorts Association on specific aspects related to energy transition in ports. However, when we talk about said “energy transition”, what do we mean?

The current climate

According to some scientific estimates (2019: The Atlantic), it is likely that sea levels will rise considerably by the end of this century, therewith putting 14% of the earth’s major ports susceptible to flooding and erosion. This is near-universally explained by the rising global temperatures, which contribute to a faster melting of the ice caps.

Maritime transport currently is responsible for about 80% of freight transported globally (by volume). As such, nearly 3% of CO2 emissions are sent into the atmosphere alone – a percentage that has increased by more than 30% in the last two decades. This characteristic of the current “golden age of oil” has had a detrimental effect on our climate already. Continuing on this same trajectory will increase this number to nearly 17% of all global emissions by the middle of our century – therewith further hastening the rise of the sea levels.

All of this suggest that leading ports need to take action now and adapt their infrastructures to offset any threats that may arise from the rising sea.

Clean fuels

When thinking about the prospect of energy transition in ports, the fuel used by the visiting vessels is central. Ships – whether they are cruises or container-carriers – need to stay in the ports they visit – to load and unload, and to re-supply. This requires the ships to stay powered whilst these operations are taking place, and ports have had to design alternative electrical systems of On-Shore Power Supplies (OPS) to lower their emissions in-port. Many ships have already started to run on new alternative fuels that have considerably smaller carbon footprints – including LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), hydrogen, ammonia and ethanol.

The vessels that operate within a port – the ones transporting the pilots or tugging the larger vessels entering the harbour – would also need to be modified. Some ports have already taken initiative such zero-emission crafts – one example being the Hydrotug boat under construction in the Port of Antwerp.

This transformation of the vessels, which also includes the capacity to be powered by the on-shore electrical or gas-powered systems, would need to be accelerated for the industry to become greener.

Electrification

As hinted in the previous section, electrification is a vital process in the energy transition of ports. Making sure that the modern ports have adequate electric facilities and technologies in place, be it through either OPS, electrified wharfs, or electric ferries or vessels that perform other port operations.

Energy production

Trying to make sure that the energy transition in ports is not a double-edged sword, which then puts increasing pressures on existing power infrastructures in their hinterlands (and therewith continue to leave a significant carbon footprint), ports also need to think about using their vicinities to generate their own power. Turning seawalls into energy producers, or having offshore wind turbines can significantly increase the Gigawatts that the ports will depend on – therewith limiting the strain on the traditional infrastructures. It is vital that ports transform their mindset and develop new technologies that can create electricity from solar power, marine power, or bioenergy. Ports will need to become electricity producers that depend on a multitude of sources to supply their operations, whilst making sure that they are doing so with limited or no emissions to comply with the emerging global regulations.

In fact, some estimates now say that by the middle of this century, industrial ports will have the capacities to generate ten times more than today. This data was presented in the DNV GL’s study on Ports: Green Gateways to Europe. The report also stated that the energy transition methods that many ports are either considering or already implementing could easily account for the increase in port activities – traffic has been consistently increasing as globalisation has driven the economies forward. In order for this to take place consistently, the report recommends 10 specific transitions that would need to take place:

  1. Electrification of port-related activities
  2. Fuel switch for maritime transport
  3. Electrification of industry
  4. Integration of offshore wind
  5. Energy system integration
  6. Hydrogen as a feedstock and energy vector
  7. Phase-out of fossil-fuelled power plants
  8. Carbon capture and storage
  9. New regulations
  10. A circular and bio-based economy

(Source: Offshore Energy)

Final thoughts

Transforming our current energy infrastructure has taken centre stage is both our political and social dimensions. The transport sector has also taken note, and many private and public entities have already taken (sometimes) drastic steps to try to lower the carbon footprint of transport. Ports, in particular, have taken note – knowing that they represent the connection between the sea and the land, and therefore need to lead in the sustainable revolution and guide both land, rail and sea transport operators on the path towards decarbonisation.

Automation and innovative technologies already exist that can help ports become energy-efficient. With new laws and guidelines already in place, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the European Green Deal, and the latest EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, the path ahead for ports is doubtlessly difficult and winding, but righteous. Smart Ports and Green Ports are now becoming synonymous with the Ports of Tomorrow. The journey forward is green, and to survive, ports need to make sure that they on it.

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Sustainability

Sustainability of transport and logistics in the Mediterranean

Written by Eduard Rodés, Director of the Escola Europea

Written by Eduard Rodés, Director of the Escola Europea

The concept of sustainability, although open to many interpretations, can be understood as based on two elements. The first is the transport network, which is, at European level, fundamentally structured by the work carried out in recent years by the European Commission (EC) on the Trans-European Transportation Network (TEN-T) and which necessarily conditions that of its neighbouring countries, and therefore by extension Mediterranean countries. The transport network is one of the three networks that are essential for economic and social development. The second element is made of the energy and telecommunications networks, which are elements of the digitalisation process. The transport network is dependent on the other two, both in terms of efficiency and sustainability.

The efforts to advance the concept of sustainability are based on the approval by the United Nations (UN) Assembly of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015, structured by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Sustainable development cannot be understood without simultaneously taking into account the interrelationship between the different goals. Spending more time trying to scrutinise the aspects related to Goal 13 on climate change, or Goal 9, which deals with industry, innovation and infrastructure in this article would not be wise, as they depend to a broad extent on the other 15 goals and their mutual interactions to reach the targets. It is most likely that the problem to solve is not pollution or sustainability but the consequences we are facing from our actions in the past two centuries. The underlying problem is our way of life and the habits we have acquired. This is where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced our societies to look at themselves in the mirror. It can now be understood that another way of organising our societies is possible and that everything is more ephemeral and fragile than previously thought.

Sustainability has become one of the critical factors in shaping the policies of all countries. The United Nations, with its Agenda 2030 initiative, and the European Union (EU) with the Green Deal, has set the course for a low-carbon society in 2050. The COVID-19 has further strengthened the need to carry out this sustainability revolution. The road ahead will not be easy and will inevitably lead to drastic changes in the configuration of the transport and logistics sector.

A World in Transition

COVID-19 appeared in the middle of a period of strong transition. Time will tell if there is a change of cycle, leaving behind the silicon and information period, and moved towards robotics, artificial intelligence, and simulation models in virtual environments. Now, the systems we are developing are prepared to aggregate much more data than we have ever had. The programmes can analyse it and simulate scenarios on which to base decisions, much more accurately than those we would have been able to make without their help. This transition is taking place in the three networks previously identified (transport, energy and telecommunications) and as a result of their evolution.

The Energy Transition

The Mediterranean, like the rest of the world, faces the need to seek out renewable energy sources. The consumption of hydrocarbons and energy produced with fossil fuels is reaching the end of the cycle. Governments face the need to seek alternatives that will maintain economic activity while reducing the environmental impact of emissions. Energy efficiency and the progressive penetration of renewable energies must enable economic reactivation in the short term and, at the same time, allow for the consolidation of the value chain associated with their deployment. They are also the pillars of decarbonisation, which gives a boost to the rest of the sectors while improving business and industrial competitiveness through a downward price path.

The energy transition also promotes the implementation and development of new technologies, which are fundamental for managing the demand for electricity and the supply of security in a 100% renewable system, in an industry segment in which the Mediterranean has the potential to acquire leading positions.

The development of hybrid plants allows for more flexibility. Different types of technologies can coexist in the same system, which can already be seen, for example, in wind power plants utilising solar panels. In such cases, the energy can be distributed using the same connection point and the access capacity already granted, provided that the technical requirements are met.

According to the Observatoire Méditerranéen de l’Energie (OME), “it is estimated that energy demand per capita will increase by 62% in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries by 2040 (using 2018 as the reference year). The Mediterranean region is also experiencing intense industrialisation and growth in tourism, putting additional pressure on available energy resources” (UfM, 2019).

These regional challenges, if adequately addressed, can be turned into business opportunities that can contribute to a sustainable energy transition. The Mediterranean is rich in renewable energy sources, such as wind, sun and water. Therefore, it has the potential to promote the transition to more sustainable and low-carbon energy systems. There is also the potential to increase energy efficiency through the development of new technologies that allow, for example, energy-saving and storage. Moreover, the development of gas and energy transmission interconnections will lead to the progressive integration of energy markets in the region, which is an opportunity for countries to better address the energy security challenges.

The problem is addressed from various perspectives depending on the “community” from which it is analysed. The most visible today is the city, which is currently undergoing a process of significant changes due to the evolution of distribution caused by the rapid growth of e-commerce (further accelerated by the COVID-19).

Ports have initiated determined shifts towards an energy transition in their territories. This has led to the emergence of professions such as officers in charge of the energy transition. The working programmes go through the different elements that make up energy consumption and their sources of production.

The first issue is a legislative framework that has been developed to force the transition while maintaining a certain rate of deployment. A second point relates to savings and efficiency policies, as these are aspects that can be applied immediately and with excellent results if used correctly. A third issue relates to energy sources, and significant changes have already been made in recent years in this regard. Gas has played a leading role in the last ten years, and during this period gas-powered ships have been built, supply systems for trucks have been developed, and some tests with port machinery have been established.

One of the critical aspects that condition the implementation process of low-sulphur fuels with low CO2 emissions is the possibility of the Mediterranean being declared an Emission Control Area (ECA). This is one of the most rapidly changing scenarios for the future. The Mediterranean will be an ECA area no later than 2024, as decided at the meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP21) held in December 2019 in Naples. The agreement will lead to the presentation of the proposal at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2022.

This is a significant challenge for the shipping companies, which have been working on the emission reduction aspects for years. In 2018, the IMO adopted Resolution 304(72) on the initial strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships, which set a reduction of 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050. The lifespan of a vessel is approximately 30 years, so times should be calculated taking this into account (IMO, 2018).

Today’s large fuel families are also in transition. Liquefied natural gas is evolving towards biomethane and hydrogen, biodiesel to second and third-generation biofuels, liquid petroleum gas to biogases, and bioethanol to synthetic ones. In all cases, it will be necessary for ships to dedicate more space to storage, as the energy power is lower, and they will need a higher quantity for a result similar to what is attained using traditional fuels.

Maritime transport in the Mediterranean is considered to be “Short Sea Shipping”, which in turn represents 80% of the world’s fleet and one of the main contributors to air quality in port cities. Ports in the Mediterranean are generally located in big cities and operate alongside them, seeking a balance between the advantages of having a port that provides a service and the disadvantages of port-related operations. What is clear is that Short Sea Shipping is configured as a network in the area in which it operates. Ships from the Southern Mediterranean work with the countries of the North and vice versa. Therefore, the regulations that will be implemented will necessarily affect practically all operations. It seems clear that governments will use coercive measures to force a rapid move towards carbon-neutral solutions.

At present in Spain, gas is at the forefront with a prepared infrastructure that will make it possible to reach 2035 without the need to invest in this concept. For operators, it is profitable because they must bear a significant initial investment to adapt their ships. Still, the cost of fuel is more economical, allowing a return on investment in a relatively short time.

In recent months, hydrogen has been gaining ground as an alternative to traditional fuels in maritime transport for several reasons. It is abundant and available everywhere. In a fuel cell, the generated waste is O2 and water. As a fuel, it has zero emissions, is not toxic, is not a greenhouse gas, can be produced from renewable resources, and is a source for other fuels such as e-fuels and blue fuels. We will have to get used to new nomenclatures such as “Green Hydrogen” produced from renewable energies or “Blue Hydrogen” generated from gas, which generates CO2 in the production process that is captured and stored in underground deposits. Hydrogen has the disadvantage of being difficult to store and transport, and involves complementary elements such as ammonium, ethanol and octane. Ammonia stands out as it is a substance that does not contain carbon in its molecule and therefore does not generate CO2 emissions during its decomposition reaction, besides being the second most-produced chemical compound worldwide after sulphuric acid.

Research is currently underway for the subsequent decomposition of ammonia for its use with catalysts. These include graphene, which due to its characteristics could be an ideal candidate. From a Mediterranean point of view, it is clear that energy sources based mainly on solar energy and gas provide a significant competitive advantage, as the changes that are expected to occur are relatively rapid.

The Digital Transition

To understand what is happening in telecommunications systems, it is worth analysing the role that they have played during the pandemic. It is no longer a question of seeing how technology evolves in the field of communications and how it will affect us. It is about realising that society has been re-structured around a different way of making and maintaining relationships, driven at this time by the pandemic, which, we all assume, will remain as a new form of interaction. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transition, thus reconfiguring human and environmental relationships. At the expense of proximity, some interactions have been enhanced and our environmental impact reduced. During this period, a reasonably high level of educational activity has been successfully maintained. International projects have been supported, many people have teleworked, and the reality is that it seems that quite a few will continue to do so, even if only partially, for the foreseeable future (if not forever). Interestingly, none of this would have been possible without a significant development in digitalisation.

Two clear consequences of this pandemic have been the drastic reduction in mobility and the exponential increase in e-commerce and door-to-door sales. All of it was possible, based on a working system supported by telematics and the digitalisation of documentation and associated information. Everything that was being developed in the world of transport has accelerated rapidly, and where before everyone was putting obstacles in the way, now everyone is looking for solutions. If something could be done telematically, it was done, whether it was administrative boards or family meetings. Some changes will be more disruptive, such as the 5G technology that will allow exchanges of information in real time. This is understandable as there will be no latencies in communications. This is linked to the important development of robotic processes.

Another essential aspect linked to the energy network is its management and use. The “Smart Grid” concept is based on a form of efficient electricity management that uses computer technology to optimise the production and distribution of electricity, to better balance supply and demand between producers and consumers, and to improve the security and quality of supply following the requirements of the digital age. Better energy management will make it possible to create energy communities that will self-manage their production and consumption. Initiatives in this direction are being considered in the Port of Barcelona itself, but the idea goes further. This capacity for knowledge and management that a computerised world allows gives rise to different systems of governance, dependence and resilience. Fortunately, it is not a question of technologies that are difficult to access for the countries of the Mediterranean basin, which already have the necessary energy and know-how.

Digitalisation has a fundamental impact on transport. Advances in digital mapping systems, fleet and transportation management and the development of mobility management networks are transforming its landscape. Each transport system has its network. For land transport, the European Commission is working with the “Intelligent Transport System”, which enables an integrated system of information for traffic, safety, efficiency and sustainability. In short, it is working on the efficient management of the transport network based on the mass collection of data and interaction with the vehicles and drivers themselves.

In the maritime world, the Safe Sea Net, the vessel traffic monitoring in EU waters, managed by the “European Maritime Safety Agency”, is gaining importance. Through it, it is possible to monitor the movement of ships in the Mediterranean, which in turn makes it possible to control environmental aspects with the Clean Sea Net service. The European Commission has continued to improve single window systems with a new initiative born at the height of the pandemic, namely the “EU Single Window Environment for Customs”, which aims to facilitate the actions of the various public administrations involved in the clearance of goods entering and leaving the Union.

The ports have entered a period of digitalisation of all their operations and territories. The Internet of things (IoT) has made it easier to have a massive amount of information available, which in turn has made it possible to create a knowledge base on which to support much more efficient management systems. Ships have become sophisticated centres of sensors and data generators, producing and transmitting information from anywhere, often in real time. At the same time, advances in satellite communications are improving connectivity, allowing for massive increases in the volumes of data transferred at an ever-lower cost.

The Transition of the Transport Network

Finally, the transition of the transport network, supported by infrastructure and physical characteristics, and which include ships, trains and trucks, and structured around energy and information, needs to be addressed. When talking about transport in the Mediterranean, we need to discuss what the European Commission defines as the Motorways of the Sea and Short Sea Shipping. The Commission is considering the creation of a single European maritime space and, in a way, a Mediterranean space. For the Commission’s Motorways of the Sea Coordinator, Kurt Bodewig, the second pillar of the three pillars of its strategy stresses the need to ensure smooth maritime transport by improving multimodal connectivity, and thus ensuring better connections to the TEN-T corridors and better links with neighbouring countries (European Commission, 2020). This programme was launched in July 2020. It reflects the principles of the new legislature of the European Parliament adopted in June 2019, and the guidelines set by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the “Green Deal” programme, which is already setting the agenda for all the countries of the Union. It is important to note that the transport sector has been dramatically affected by the measures to contain the pandemic. The continuity of services has been ensured by transport workers under challenging conditions, showing that their role is critical in serving the essential needs of the population. By extension, the transport sector will also be crucial in supporting the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. This will particularly rely on the maritime and port transport sectors, with cruise, ferry and Ro-Pax operators being the most affected.

The sector faces two significant challenges: on the one hand, an evolution towards a concept of mobility as a service, which implies the integral management of information systems and means of transport oriented to the service of mobility; and, on the other, and always under the same principles, synchro modality and the physical Internet. These challenges are two new ways of visualising freight and passenger transport in which digitalisation, and clean energies will play a fundamental role.

Conclusions

The transitions in the energy, telecommunications and transport networks pose a disruptive change in the transport sector. Companies will have to reconfigure their strategies because they will have to change their means to adapt to the new situation, and management systems will be increasingly based on the digitalisation of operations, with artificial intelligence applying to their day-to-day activities. This brings about new opportunities for companies and the entry of new players from different markets. These new players may have competitive advantages over the rest, something that has already been witnessed in other sectors. Mobility will continue to be a fundamental element in development but will be adapted to a new reality that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies will have to reconfigure many of the professional profiles to adapt them to the new reality and to favour the new skills that will be required for a circular economy. These are what we call “Blue Skills”. Training to cope with this transition will be a crucial factor in facilitating that transition.

Energy prices will change very significantly. Solar energy will gain prominence, giving a competitive advantage to countries with deserts, where solar energy performance is very high. This is an excellent advantage for the Southern Mediterranean countries. These price fluctuations will doubtlessly cause instability for a certain period.

Sustainability becomes the driver towards economic recovery. The challenge of building a new sustainable society will mark the agendas and efforts of the post-COVID-19 generation, which is much more open and aware of the challenges that we will have to face.

It is too soon to know how the COVID-19 will affect public transport. It still seems that the pandemic will last for some time, although more hope has emerged with the emergency approvals of the new vaccines in some countries, which should help overcome it. Transport will change, above all, because it already had to change with or without the COVID-19. It will do so with environmentally friendly mobility and be more adapted to serving people and goods thanks to non-polluting fuels and artificial intelligence digitalisation processes. Change is on the Blue Horizon ahead, so let us sail towards it sustainably together.

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