Discharge of ship polluted water at sea is still a fact. Ship owners claim for “adequate” port facilities. @BluePorts aims at mobilising the maritime community to jointly design attractive port based reception/treatment services for polluted water, starting from oil and ballast water. Our goal is to create awareness and motivation to stop discharge at sea using the Atlantic Area as a support platform to prototype, test, demonstrate and communicate via pilot sites and workshops.


The project “Atlantic Blue Ports”, selected in May 2017 by the Atlantic area Integrated program, has for main objective to improve port based services for the discharge and treatment of ships effluents.

The project gathers 28 partners and associated partners, representing ports, PRF operators, public authorities, companies and universities from the whole Atlantic area. Their common goal is to motivate maritime communities to stop discharge at sea by designing attractive port services.

Blue Ports is co-founded by the Interregional cooperation program Interreg of the Atlantic area. Budget of the project is 2,96 M€, with European funds of 2,22 M€.

As pillar of MARPOL, the EU Port Reception Facility (PRF) directive obliges ports providing adequate PRF, ships delivering waste in the port and recommends a cost recovery system (CRS) as an incentive. IMO has also developed a PRF database, a facility for users and providers. The IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) enters into force on Sept. 2017.

Despite regulations, discharge at sea is still practiced. Port users complain about the variability, cost and lack of adequate port discharge facilities. But what does mean “adequate”?

DG move has tasked the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF) and EMSA to prepare a possible revision of the PRF Directive. Meanwhile the IMO BWMC implementation process starts, a new challenge.

Our objective is to provide a practical support to the ESSF/EMSA, using the Atlantic Area as a physical platform and its maritime community as a resource to design, prototype, test and demonstrate the “ideal” PRF and services for oiled and ballast water (as first concern).

Following the INTERREG spirit, the project will create a cooperation framework and network for all parties by addressing users, providers and policy makers. The project emphasizes innovation: in techniques, to reduce operation time, in financial instruments to facilitate investment and adjust service costs and in user friendly booking services.

The overall goal is to motivate the maritime community to stop discharge at sea by designing in consensus the Blue Port Services for 2020 and beyond.

Project challenges

To find an accessible solution for fighting maritime pollutions.

The project “@BluePorts” addresses a common environmental challenge: marine pollution by discharge at sea of oiled and ballast water. The Atlantic Area is particularly concerned through intense maritime traffic along its long
coasts hosting a rich eco-system.

The amount of oil spilled annually worldwide is estimated above 4.5 million tons and it is mainly due to discharge of slops, bilge and cleaning of tanks (45%). Discharge of ballast waters is one main source of alien species which invade and stress local ecosystems.

Maritime communities are liable to treat their “polluted water”, including soon ballast water (from Sept. 2017).

However they claim against the prohibitive cost of treatment systems on board vessels and the lack of easy to use and cost effective discharge stations on land.

To create feasible regulations of marine protection.

Discharge at sea is destructive but attractive.

EMSA and the ESSF PRF working group, ports, shipping companies and member states shall reach consensus on the “ideal” port services, and translate it into acceptable and applicable regulations. That’s a second common challenge.

Our goal is to use the Atlantic Area as a best practice “laboratory” to support EMSA/ESSF, public authorities in their task by mobilising concerned parties to jointly design and test the “ideal” attractive Port Services, providing contribution to policy makers and motivation of port users to stop sea discharge.

We believe that engagement of maritime community and availability of economic port solutions will perform better than law enforcement means.

Transnational Approach

Designing and investing in “ideal” port reception and treatment facilities requires convincing a large community and the support of influent bodies, from regional to trans-national levels, to create awareness, interest, push and finally consensus on the need/solution. The demand is growing for such port services especially for oil polluted and ballast waters, as the costs of embarked systems is prohibitive, leading temptation to discharge at sea.

To convince Atlantic ports have for key arguments a rich marine environment, to be preserved, and decision makers aware of this richness (result of INTERREG). However investment projects are always in competition: what will be the economic feedback? It is thus a common need to analyze the market, find efficient technologies and work with stakeholders to prepare market uptake with relevant regulatory and financial solutions, developing a brand, an interactive booking service and a database of indicators. All are necessarily transnational activities.

The INTERREG Atlantic program has created a maritime community. We know each other. We work in confidence. This is a strong asset and demonstration that it is the right program (dimension, goals,rules) to address such issues of general interest for the maritime community. The project has thus gathered a consortium of ports, stakeholders, companies to create a leading group able to mobilize the maritime communities and to prototype sound solutions for future investments at larger scale.

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Blueports Project Leaflet

Atlantic Blue Ports Project, as part of the European Communityfunded INTERREG programme, will offer free ballast water treatment demonstrations in Lisboa.

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Topics include the protection of national sea waters; the development of advanced techniques and processes for the treatment of effluents as well as control of treated water and monitoring of sea water in port areas.

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  • The maritime community living from marine resources: mariculture/ seaweed; fisheries; tourism;
  • The public (pure environment and quality sea products);
  • Ports and port industries (attractive brand and services);
  • Public authorities in charge of marine environment;
  • European maritime communities (impact of marine pollution beyond the Atlantic).

Discover more about the importance and meaning of the innovative @BluePorts project

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Fabienne Vallee
Atlantic Blue Ports,
project manager