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EU-funded 'EFFORTS' project sees successful conclusion

Partners in the EFFORTS project, looking at operational performance, strategic planning and environmental concerns in the European seaport industry, have held their final meeting in Hamburg. EU officials say the initiative has made a valuable contribution to a crucial economic sector.

Port of Hamburg © Peter Gutierrez
EFFORTS comes to Port of Hamburg
© Peter Gutierrez

"We've done a lot of work over the past three years," said  EFFORTSexternal link coordinator Valerio Recagno of Italy's  D'Appoloniaexternal link. "But we aren't here today to pat each other on the backs. What we want, what we expect now is to see the results of this project put into action."

The overarching objective of EFFORTS ('Effective operations in ports') was to point the way towards improved competitiveness and market performance of European ports, and better port labour and environmental conditions. To do so, 37 partners, including port authorities, universities, research institutes, ICT solutions providers and other industrial partners carried out research in three areas:

  • Navigation in ports
  • Ports and environment
  • Port organisation

A never-ending tale

For centuries, seaports have been the gateways to foreign lands and centres of exchange for both people and goods. This is still the case today and, with traffic ever-increasing, port operators, service providers and policy makers have to work together to continue to improve the ways in which our ports work.

Addressing the EFFORTS event in Hamburg, Mary Papaschinopoulou of the Northern German Chamber of Commerce looked to the past and to the future. "Our host city of Hamburg was once a member of the Hanseatic League," she said, "the great commercial partnership that had such a great influence on our history and cultures. Even then, technology and innovation were driving forces. Today we have to keep technology and innovation policy at the forefront."

EU Project Officer Joost de Bock said, "Unfortunately, ports are confronted with the image that they are not very attractive working places," he said, "notwithstanding the fact that they have changed dramatically over the last 50 years, requiring more and more high skills. While being confronted with ever increasing demands, today's ports do not have all the opportunities to respond, due to spatial limitations and tighter legislation. Ports therefore have to be innovative, to do more with limited resources."

To find new solutions, the EFFORTS team looked at some long established and not always perfectly efficient port operational procedures. Jens Froese of ISSUS explained, "We wanted our project to serve a diverse port community. To do so we needed to include everyone, and we also needed to step back and take a larger view, an 'architectural' view, to consider port organisation and flow, to untangle habitual and traditional procedures that do not necessarily add value."

Many strands

As a large integrated project, said Froese, EFFORTS has delivered results in a number of areas, including new and innovative technologies.

Tommy Mikkelsen demonstrates EFFORTS PPU © Peter Gutierrez
Tommy Mikkelsen
demonstrates EFFORTS PPU
© Peter Gutierrez

Tommy Mikkelsen of project partner  Marimatechexternal link described a new portable and highly precise piloting station using satellite navigation technologies. "The Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) is a precise navigation device that works independently of the instruments of the piloted vessel," he explained. "It gives you position, speed and turning rate information on a single display and makes this information available to the pilot, the tug masters and port traffic control." The unit improves safety and efficiency, he says, by reducing the amount of verbal communication needed and providing high-precision information."

Another highlight on display at the Hamburg meeting was a state-of-the-art tug simulator. The device behaves like a real, sophisticated, fully equipped, modern harbour tug. Developed by project partner FORCE, it delivers more realistic training exercises for tug masters and pilots. The simulated environment includes wave effects, ship-ship interactions and accurately modelled fender forces.

Joost de Bock and Valerio Recagno © Peter Gutierrez
Joost de Bock and Valerio Recagno
© Peter Gutierrez

Additional work included in-depth analyses of noise pollution; highly mechanised operations like modern port work can cause a lot of noise, often on a 24/7 basis. An event on noise annoyance organised by the EFFORTS project in Dublin in October 2009 served to disseminate key new information on noise sources, propagation and perception, and included presentations of sound samples and practical demonstrations. Project partners say it was also a good opportunity for interested parties to discuss noise related topics.

Research not enough

EFFORTS is currently set to present its comprehensive recommendations on port operations, including business practices, operational transparency, safety and security, and addressing additional environmental issues such as water and air quality, and invasive species in ballast water.

"Our efforts now are aimed at presenting our message to the wider port community," said Recagno. "This is why we have carried out demonstrations of our new systems and why we are doing everything possible to diffuse our results and stimulate networking, to push for further co-operation among our partners."