Playing chess on several boards at once

03 October 2019
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Making waves #7

In Rotterdam we are continuously searching for answers to make the port smarter, more efficient, better and more sustainable. How have partners in the port addressed this, why, and what could they have done smarter?

Alice Krekt is Programme Director of the Climate Programme at employers’ organisation Deltalinqs, which represents the interests of logistics, port and industrial companies in Rotterdam. As part of the Climate Programme, members are collaborating on the energy transition in the Port of Rotterdam Industrial Complex with the municipality, the province, knowledge institutes and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The main focus is on three themes: energy efficiency, renewable fuels & energy carriers and sustainable raw materials.

Alice Krekt
Alice Krekt

‘I’m originally from Friesland, and I’ve always had a love of the water. I am a sailor, preferably at sea. As an urban planner - I studied geography at university - I am fascinated by which economic activities take place in certain places, why they grow and why others fail to do so. I am not driven by money; I feel a great deal of social responsibility; I want to contribute something and improve things. I think it’s great being able to do that from this location at Deltalinqs. Being at the employers’ association, in the port which has the greatest emitters of CO2 in the Netherlands, I’m in exactly the right place to work on these issues. Society sometimes regards working on sustainability from such a location with a degree of scorn. However, I can see a lot of opportunities to make headway.’

People who are willing

‘Even among entrepreneurs there are some concerns about the changes that need to be made, but I focus on the people who are willing to make them. What’s more, there are plenty of them, especially in the port. This is because most entrepreneurs believe it’s their duty to take up the gauntlet and solve the issues themselves. The people who work at these companies feel responsible and look for solutions. Their field of expertise means they are sometimes more aware of the situation than the average Dutch citizen.’

‘However, it is important that companies are helped and that they cooperate with other companies, governments and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. Companies often have to deal with a prisoner’s dilemma, whereby they want to take steps towards sustainability, but find going it alone to be difficult. The techniques are still under development. They run into legislation and regulations, which can only be amended by the government. Another infrastructure is needed, for example one for hydrogen.’

Blue hydrogen

‘I believe a smart port is a sustainable port that uses fossil fuels wisely, switches to renewable fuels and is committed to achieving the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, while simultaneously maintaining and improving its economic position.’

‘As part of the Climate Programme, we are researching how to promote the use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels. Green hydrogen, which is produced using wind or solar power, does not release any CO2. That is what we are working towards, although it is expensive and still under development. Rotterdam refineries are currently using grey hydrogen to produce oil, and this releases CO2. Our feasibility study shows that Rotterdam’s industry can reduce its CO2 emissions considerably even before 2030 through the large-scale production and use of blue hydrogen. In addition, the CO2 will be stored in empty gas fields. This will require major investments in new infrastructure and the conversion of existing plant. However, the adapted infrastructure will then be suitable for green hydrogen right away.’

The smart thing is: embracing vulnerability

‘There is no single solution or a straight road towards making the port smart and sustainable. You always have to deal with several parties who get involved or drop out and have different interests. Along the way, you come across new challenges that you hadn’t previously considered. It’s a puzzle; which piece goes where? It’s like playing chess on several boards at once. At the same time there are lots of initiatives, and many organisations are running their own climate programmes. Let’s use what already exists and see how we can connect with one another.’

‘In the port, we always want to be sure of everything in the port first and only then do we talk about it. We need to show our searches and efforts more. Others will then have a better understanding of what we do. They will recognise that the ambition is there, and that there are difficulties too. I think it would be wise if we were to embrace our vulnerability more.’