Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 2014, 2, 143-150
Published Online April 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/gep
How to cite this paper: Kura, B. et al. (2014). Promoting Sustainability at the Ports through Knowledge Sharing. Journal of
Geoscience and Environment Protection, 2, 143-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/gep.2014.22020
Promoting Sustainability at the Ports
through Knowledge Sharing
Bhaskar Kura1, Catherine Dunn2, Amrita Iyer1, Elena Bourbour Ajdari1
1Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
2Port of New Orleans, New Orleans, US A
Received February 2014
Ports are a major source of economic activity and environmental pollution. They use a variety of
equipment for loading/unloading and movement of cargo, such as marine vessels, cranes, trucks
and railroads. These activities can cause large amounts of pollution to the air, water and soil me-
dia. Despite the pollution generated, it also serves as a medium for tourism with its cruise liners.
This paper discusses port activities and how it effects the environment. The main focus of this pa-
per is Knowledge Sharing for Sustainability of Ports. Sustainability indicators should help in eva-
luating port conditions and this knowledge sharing among the proposed 10 major world ports
should accelerate economic growth and use of latest technologies for pollution reduction.
Sustainabili ty; Ports Benefits; Environmental Issues at Ports; Knowledge Sharing
A harbor area such as coastal areas, great lakes and inland river systems where ships load and unload are consi-
dered as a port. Ports provide shore side facilities for the transfer of cargo between ships, barges, railroads and
trucks. They also have cruise terminals for passengers.
Ports and Its Economic Importance
In the coastal regions, Ports play a major role for economic growth. Port cities have always been at a higher po-
sition in the aspect of economic life for many centuries. More infrastructure, employment and associated services are
required as the goods and passengers increase with time. This affects the local and regional economy and envi-
ronment in many ways. Ports are a crucial connection between sea and land transportation. Ports also serve as a
social function by providing jobs to people.
Ports provide benefit for international trade. More than 80% of cargoes are transported by sea. They serve as
global entry point and source of growth with low trade costs for host ports. At the same time, there are some disad-
vantages associated with it like reducing the attractiveness of the city due to pollution, traffic and noise (OECD, 2014).
About one third of the total worth of global trade is done by the liner shipping industry which is the most effi-
B. Kura et al.
cient way of goods’ transport (WSC, 2014). “In one year, a single large containership might carry over 200,000
container loads of cargo. It would require hundreds of freight aircraft, many miles of railcars, and fleets of trucks to
carry the goods that can fit on one large liner ship (WSC, 2014).” In the US (2007) port activity contributed more than
$3.15 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product and 13.3 million port related jobs were generated (AAPA, 2014).
Table 1 lists the top 10 container ports of the world (on the basis of the total volume in 2011 and 2012) and
Table 2 lists the top 10 ports of the United States (on the basis of total tons in 2011).
2. Port Activities
The activities and operations carried out at any port depend largely on the type and volume of cargo being
shipped. The operations related activities are the following:
1) Transpor tation
2) Cargo handling
3) Building/grounds maintenance
4) Chemical storage and handling
6) Ship air emissions
7) Painting and paint stripping
8) Rail maintenance
9) Vehicle and equipment maintenance
10) Ship breaking, repair and maintenance
Cons id er ing the variety of processes carried by ports and the potential to consume a huge amount of energy
and emit large quantities of multi-media pollutants (solid wastes, liquid wastes, and air pollutants), there is a
great need for a knowledge-based system to manage environmental affairs of ports around the world. This is
particularly important as the mismanagement of port activities and related emissions/waste discharges can im-
pact the community in the immediate vicinity (AAPA, 2014).
2.1. Pollution from Port Operations
Enormous engines running on diesel fuel, diesel trucks, trains, cargo handling equipment, cranes and other
equipment at ports cause a tremendous impact on the environment which could affect the health of workers and
Table 1. Top 10 ports in the world (World Shipping Council (WSC), 2013).
Rank Port, Country Volume 2012 (Million TEUs) Volume 2011 (Million TEUs)
1 Shanghai, China 32.53 31.74
2 Singapore, Singapore 31.65 29.94
3 Hong Kong, China 23.1 24.38
4 Shenzhen, China 22.94 22.57
5 Busan, South Korea 17.04 1 6.18
6 Ningbo-Zhoushan, China 16.83 14.72
7 Guangzhou Harbor, China 14.74 14.42
8 Qingdao, China 14.5 13.02
9 Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates 13.3 13
10 Tianjin, China 12.3 11.59
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Table 2. Top 10 ports in the United States (US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2013).
2011 2010 2001 Percent
Rank Total tons
(Millions) Rank Total tons
(Millions) Rank Total tons
South Louisiana, LA 1 246.5 1 236.3 1 212.6 4.3% 16.0%
Houston, TX 2 237.8 2 227.1 2 185.1 4.7% 28.5%
New York, NY and NJ 3 139.2 3 139.2 3 137.5 0.0% 1.2%
Long Beach, CA 4 80.3 5 75.4 8 67.6 6.4% 18.7%
New Orleans, LA 5 77.2 7 72.4 4 85.6 6.6% -9.9%
Beaumont, TX 6 73.7 4 77.0 5 79.1 -4.3% -6.9%
Corpus Christi, TX 7 70.5 6 73.7 6 77.6 -4.2% -9.1%
Los Angeles, CA 8 65.0 8 62.4 14 51.4 4.2% 26.5%
Huntington -Tristate 9 58.6 9 61.5 7 76.7 -4.8% -23.6%
Baton Rouge, LA 10 57.9 13 55.5 10 61.4 4.2% -5.8%
local communities (NRDC, 2014). All the activities mentioned above may not be performed at every port; also
each activity will not generate the same amount of pollution at every port. Table 4 gives the pollutant informa-
tion and their pathways for the sub activities mentioned in Table 3 (Dunn et al., 2011).
2.2. Air Pollution
Major air pollutants from diesel engines at ports are particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds
(VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur oxides (SOx). Percentage emissions of NOx and PM10from various
Port activities are shown in F igure 1. In addition to these pollutants, there are other air pollutants like carbon
monoxide (CO), formaldehyde, heavy metals, dioxins, and pesticides. These pollutants may cause asthma, other
respiratory diseases, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Therefore, reduction of pollutant
emissions and improvement of air quality in the vicinity of ports is one of the major environmental concerns and
needs to be managed (NRDC, 2014).
2.3. Water Pollution
Dirty water from ships may be directly dumped into the sea or leached into it, which affects the water quality
and causes problems to the human health and to the life of marine species. It causes a decrease in oxygen level,
accumulation of toxins in fish and degrading aquatic life. At the hull of a ship water gets contaminated with oil
called as Bilge. It must be cleaned and emptied regularly to prevent contamination by hazardous vapors. Bilge along
with other wastes from the ship poses a serious threat to aquatic life. Port water used by ships is called Ballast water,
stored in tanks. Ballasting is important for cargo loading and unloading activities and improves stability. To prevent
the growth of marine organisms on ships, antifouling additives are used in paints. These are mixed with paints and
coated on ship surface, which are toxic in nature (NRDC, 2014). AFS Treaty prohibits the use of antifouling agents
like organotins and tributyltin (TBT) given the fact that they are harmful to the marine environment (AAPA, 2014).
There are international and national regulations for vessel discharge which need to be followed accurately to
prevent irreparable environmental damages.
3. Concept of Knowledge Sharing
The University of New Orleans (UNO) is using the Port of New Orleans as a case study to develop/propose a
user friendly intelligent application to promote sustainability at ports. This will be achieved by team work which
B. Kura et al.
Table 3. Typical processes and sub-activities at a typical port (AAPA, 1998).
Major Process Sub Activity Numbers*
Building Demolition D2, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Building Renovation D1, D2, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Bulkhead Installation D1, D3, O5,O6, O7, O9, O11, O12
Contamination Remediation D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Dredge Material Disposal O5,O6, O7, O9, O11, O12, O13, O14
Dredging O5,O6, O7, O9, O11, O12, O13, O14
Landfilling D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
New Building Construction D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Pavement Installation D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Pavement Removal D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Pier & Dock Construction D1, D3, O5,O6, O7, O9, O11, O12
Site Clearing D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Utility Construction D1, O5,O6, O7, O11, O12
Automobile Transport Operations
- Offloading O1, O2, O6, O11
- Storage O1, O2, O6, O11, O12
Building and Grounds Maintenance/Landscaping D1,D2, O2, O5, O6, O7, O8, O11, O12
- Dry Bulk O3, O14
- Liquid Bulk O4,O5, O6, O14
- General Cargo O3, O5, O14
- Containers O3, O5, O14
- Breakbulk O3, O5, O14
Chemical Storage and Handling O4, O5, O6
- On-Loading O4, O6
- Storage O4, O6
- Off-Loading O4, O6
- Anti-Fouling-Building O2, O5
- Service Vehicles O2, O5
Paint Stripping O2, O5, O13, O15
Public Access and Recreation
- Cruise Lines O5, O6, O7, O9, O10, O13, O14
- Fishing Piers O5, O6, O7, O9, O10, O13, O14
- Moorings/Slips O5, O6, O7, O9, O10, O13, O14
- Public Recreational Access D1, O5, O6, O7, O9, O10, O13, O14
Rail Maintenance D1, D2, D3, O2, O5, O6, O11, O12
Ship liquid discharges
- Ballast Water O5, O8, O9, O11, O13
B. Kura et al.
Conti n ue d
- Tank Cleaning O5, O8, O9, O11, O13
- Bilge Water O5, O8, O9, O11, O13
- Sewage O5, O8, O9, O11, O13
- Ship-Generated O8, O9
- Shore-Generated O8, O9
Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance O5, O6, O7, O8, O10, O11, O12, O13
Vessel Repair and Maintenance D2, O5, O6, O7, O8, O10, O11, O12, O13
Ship Breaking D2, O5, O7, O8, O15
*Table 4 contains details of sub activity numbers.
Table 4. List of sub activities and potential pollutants (AAPA, 1998).
No. Sub Activity Name Potential Pollutants Target Pathways
D1 Sediment and Erosion Control Sediments, Dust Surface water, Air
D2 Buildings Renovation and Demolition Asbestos, Lead, Dust, Sediments,
Petroleum Hydrocarbons, PCBs Surface water, Air, Soil, Groundwater
D3 Bulkhead, Pier, and Dock Construction Sediments Surface water
O1 Automobile Storage and Transport Oil, Grease, Sediments, Soaps, Combustion
By-Products Air, Surface water
O2 Building and Grounds Maintenance Pesticides/Herbicides/Fertilizers, Oil and
Grease, Sediments Groundwater, Surface water, Air, Soil
O3 Bulk Storage and Handling—Dry Dust, Sediment, Metals, Hydrocarbons, Salts Surface water, Air, Soil
O4 Bulk Storage and Handling—Liquid Oil and Grease, Fuels, Organic Chemicals,
Inorganic Chemicals Air, Surface water, Groundwater, Soil
O5 Chemical Storage and Handling—Non Bulk Organic Chemicals, Inorganic Chemicals,
Metal, Oil and Grease Surface water, Air, Groundwater, Soil
O6 Fueling Petroleum Hydrocarbons Groundwater, Surface water, Air
O7 Vessel and Equipment Painting and
Paint Stripping Paints, Solvents/Hydrocarbons,
Metals, Solids Surface water, Soil, Air
O8 Ship and Shore generated Solid Waste
Handling Oils and Grease, Petroleum Hydrocarbons,
Metals, Solvents, Paints Surface water, Soil
O9 Protection of Marine Mammals and
Sensitive Aquatic Habitats
O10 Public Access and Recreation Solvents, Petroleum Hydrocarbons,
Metals, Solid Waste Surface water
O11 Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance Oils and Grease, Petroleum Hydrocarbons,
Coolants, Solvents Surface water, Air, Soil
O12 Vehicle and Equipment Washing Oils and Grease, Petroleum Hydrocarbons,
Surfactants/soaps Surface water
O13 Vessel Repair and Maintenance Oils and Grease, Paints, Solvents,
Fuels, Sediments Surface water, Air
O14 Ship Air Emissions NOx, SO2, Particulates, HAPs Air
O15 Ship Breaking Oils and Grease, Heavy Metals, Suspended
Solids, PCBs, Asbestos Surface water, Soils, Air
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Figure 1. NOx and PM10 emissions from various port related activities.
includes Civil & Environmental Engineering graduate students, faculty, Computer Science students, and the
personnel of the Port of New Orleans. The results and products of this research and application can be applied to
all ports to improve and manage environmental quality in our surroundings in a better way. Figure 2 depicts the
concept of this research.
4. Methodology of Building a Knowledge-Based (KB) System for Promoting
Sustainability at Ports
Process being used by UNO Researchers to quantify the pollution load from the ports and create a knowledge-
base for promoting sustainability:
• Collaborate with the Port of New Orleans to understand the processes in detail.
• Benchmark pollution loads (multimedia pollutants (air, water, solid).
• Identify sustainability indicators important for the Ports.
• Calculate the real time values for the identified indicators for The Port of New Orleans.
• Survey ten major ports to understand the indicators for other ports using the online system.
• Design and develop knowledge-sharing methodology to improve performance of participating ports.
Different environmental indicators should be considered for ports sustainability such as energy consumption,
water consumption and discharge from vessels, sanitary wastewater from cruise liners and offices, solid and ha-
zardous wastes, air pollution, diesel power, fueling, painting, and welding. Other indicators like employment
potential, secondary economic impacts and tertiary economic impacts will be considered as cost indicators
which have a critical role for managing and quality improvement. The UNO application or knowledge-based
system will use data from participating ports on a 5 - 10 year scale in computing indicators in useful units. For
instance, energy consumption can be calculated as Energy used/100,000 tons of cargo, Energy used/100,000
barrels of crude, or Energy used/1000 ft2 of the building space (office or warehouse). In the same way, other in-
dicators can be calculated and analyzed. In addition, UNO application aims to adopt EPA and international reg-
ulations/ guidelines to evaluate participating Ports and provide rational recommendations that are environmen-
tally—sensible, economically-viable, and socially-responsible.
Autho r s believe that the proposed Knowledge-Based (KB) System (Web-Based) can be accessed by the con-
sortium of ports under the leadership of MERIC, which will promote “sustainability” by reducing pollution load,
increasing profitability, and improving social relevance.
Every country has its national and international sector of transportation, in which a major role is played by
ocean-going and inland waterways. They are classified as cargo and passenger vessels. As mentioned in this pa-
per, Por ts have potential to produce large amounts of pollution. The amount of pollution can be a function of the
amount of fuel consumed; work done, quantity of materials handled, types of materials handled, design of the
Port and its logistics, Port equipment, and more. Different ports around the world have various technologies,
B. Kura et al.
Figure 2. Knowledge sharing using KB system for promoting sustainability at ports.
equipment and logistics for their day-to -day operations and pollution control. The goal of this project is to com-
bine the knowledge available at MERIC-UNO and the World Ports on a single platform, like a web-based ap-
plication (KB System) which will be accessible to users to implement technologies and strategies to reach the
goals of sustainability in an efficient manner. This is achieved by identification of sustainability indicators for
ports and benchmarking them. The study will use and compare these indicators with other major ports in the
world to attain sustainability through knowledge-sharing to promote growth. The KB System to be developed is
aimed to improve Port performance, reduce costs, improve profitability, and protect the public health & the en-
AAPA (American Association of Port Authorities) (2014). Trade and Economic Growt h.
B. Kura et al.
American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) (1998). Environmental Management Handbook.
Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) (2014).
Compliance Monitoring (2014).
Dunn, C., V e rma , S. and Kura, B. Environmental Management of Port Activities: A Case Study of Port of New Orleans,
NRDC (2004). Harboring Pollution, Strategies to Clean up US Ports .
OECD (2014). Green Growth and Sustainable Development.
United States Department of Transportation (2014). Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Trans-
US Environmental Protection Agency (2009). Current Methodologies in Preparing Mobile Source Port-Related Emission
Inventories, Final Report.
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
World Shipping Council (WSC) (2014).