Key takeaways from the first Green Inland Ports workshop in Belgrade

On the 19th of October, the European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) met for the first time with the Ecorys’ consortium for the study on Greening of Inland Ports. This article provides a summary of the key takeaways from the event.


The event was moderated by Geert Smit from Ecorys. He welcomed all participants joining in Belgrade and online. He also introduced the consortium working on the study. He concluded by thanking the participants for attending this workshop, thanking EFIP for providing a platform for this project, and thanking DG MOVE for funding the initiative.

Turi Fiorito from EFIP welcomed the EFIP members and the members of the consortium. He explained that this project is important to inland ports because of the green ambition of inland ports as enablers of green logistics. He also outlined that the expectations of the sector for the project are to have a roadmap containing green solutions and describing how these solutions can be properly implemented.

Jasper Tanis from Ecorys provided an introduction of the project. He introduced the policy context, objectives, scope, timeline and approach. He presented how inland ports and other stakeholders can have an impact and contribute to the results of the project:

  • Environmental and Sustainable Management Systems will be developed and tested in 10 ports. The study team has launched an expression of interest in order to identify potential implementation projects.
  • Stakeholders are invited to participate in the 2nd survey for this project taking place in the first few months of 2024.
  • Multiple interviews are going to be organised for the several tasks implemented in this project.
  • Participants were also invited to visit the website and contact the study team at [email protected].

EFIP asked whether any criteria will be applied for the selection of the 10 pilot projects to ensure a balanced selection of these projects and Ecorys confirmed that these criteria will be applied, since a good geographical distribution, range of port sizes and other requirements needs to be ensured.

A number of participants asked for a strong dissemination of the study results and the good practices.

Urban and short-range Inland Waterway Transport (IWT)

Following the introduction, Henrik Armbrecht (PLANCO Consulting GmbH) presented the background, methodology and approach for task 2 on urban and short-range IWT. He introduced the Good Practice case study approach and gave a snapshot on 10 of the 20 selected Good Practice cases.

With regards to the potential of technological developments (automatisation) to improve the competitive position of IWT compared with road transport, some port representatives asked to focus more on the improvement of efficiency rather than cost savings. Planco reacted that the competition for urban and short-range IWT service is challenging, however acknowledged that this topic will be covered carefully in the analysis. Participants mentioned mixed experiences with urban and short-range IWT services. Planco reacted that task 2 partners will continue the discussion with stakeholders through Good Practice analysis.

Environmental impact of inland ports

Roy van den Berg (CE Delft) provided an overview of the activities that can create emissions in inland ports and posed the question ‘to what extent are ports responsible for third party activities in the port?’. One of the suggestions was to use the different scopes (1, 2 and 3) as is also used in the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, for example. Roy presented some preliminary results from the first case study to give some insights of the impact of the different activities.

Sander Raphaël (CE Delft) provided an introduction into the good practices for inland ports, which will be functioning as a transparent overview of how inland ports can mitigate their environmental impact. Responses of the participants indicated that at many ports, sustainability is an important agenda point, but ports often have very specific challenges that they are facing.

Environmental impact of inland ports: legislative aspects

Frank Stevens (Erasmus School of Law, ESL) briefly sketched the collection of EU environmental laws that are (potentially) relevant for inland ports and requested the participants input on whether they feel that they are lacking legal tools to achieve green objectives, whether their countries have domestic environmental laws relating to issues not covered by EU legislation, and whether their countries have transposed EU directives differently or more strictly than neighbouring countries (‘gold-plating’).

One of the issues raised by the participants was that ports sometimes feel obliged to pave plots of land that they are currently not using.  Another issue raised was waste management, which can arise in different ways for inland ports.  It is preferable to treat waste so that it can be used as raw material for other processes (end-of-waste status). There is, however, uncertainty and national differences about what it takes to achieve end-of-waste status for many types of waste.  Also, a port’s country may not have specific or adequate rules for certain types of waste, thus making the handling of such types of waste in or by the port complex and expensive.


Saša Jovanović presented insights into the ongoing work on the Inventory of digital tools which are currently available for port management, operations and digitised environmental performance measurement of ports.

The participants were introduced to the basic notions of digitalisation efforts in ports, preconditions necessary for the successful implementation of digitalisation process, as well as the main drivers and benefits of digitalisation of port management and operations.

The technologies were presented in the order of their complexity, starting with various sensors typically spread out through a port and mounted on cranes, quay walls, bollards, waterway bottom, cargo handling equipment, gates, etc. Technologies such as blockchain, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and digital twins triggered an interesting interaction with the audience.

In addition, real-time monitoring of environmental parameters through various IoT enabled sensors for the measurements of air/water quality, noise, etc. was presented. One of the benefits of digitalised environmental performance measurement presented was the regulatory compliance where digital EMT systems can assist in ensuring compliance by providing a structured approach to data management, reporting, and documentation.

Finally, the first results of the survey on applied digital tools in inland ports were presented showcasing the practical side of digitalisation and to what extent the ports have already been using such tools.

Digitalisation: legislative aspects

Frank Stevens (ESL) introduced the participants to the many legal questions surrounding the digitalisation of inland ports, including privacy issues (GDPR), data ‘ownership’ and data sharing, the possible liabilities of parties participating in a digitalisation scheme and the liabilities for defective software, including liabilities for AI applications. Several participants confirmed that GDPR issues can crop up in unexpected ways, that data sharing agreements are vital to digitalisation efforts and that fear of liability can be an important barrier to data sharing and collaboration.

Missed the event? Watch the recording, take a look at the presentations and find the Mentimeter results from Belgrade 2023.