Potential Indicators for Monitoring Port Circular Processes

Circular ports monitor

Based on Circular Flanders (2023). Circular ports Monitor.

Monitoring progress toward circular goals is at an early stage of documentation, research and implementation.  A concrete framework tracking the progress towards a circular port has been developed and tested in the context of the Circular Flanders activities.

This Circular Ports monitoring framework offers a set of 12 indicators that provide Port authorities with a monitoring system of the progress of and performance towards circularity and allow the formulation of the next steps for the gradual advancement of circularity ambitions.

The 12 selected indicators are:

  1.  The number of CE business activities located in the port area. The indicator directly relates to the number of CE business activities in the port area. A circular (business) activity is defined as an initiative that passed the minimum efficient scale or pilot phase, moving to a greater maturity level.
  2. The number of CE projects in the port area. A circular project is defined here as a temporary circular initiative that has recently started. It has not yet passed a minimum efficient scale. The initiative is still in a pilot or test phase and is mostly financially supported by one or more organizations.
  3. Share of tender specifications that include a circular procurement policy. This indicator relates to the circularity of port infrastructure and governance measures used by Port authorities. Circular requirements referred to in tender specifications could include but are not limited to, building infrastructure modularly or requiring that a minimum percentage of the used materials be secondary.
  4. Share of CE start-ups in the port area which uses incubation services. The indicator indicates the R&D and services that can be used to push circular initiatives to become economically more robust. Incubators can provide start-ups with services related to, amongst others, administration and applications for subsidies. The idea is that CE start-ups that use incubation services will grow faster and further than those that do not and, therefore, have a higher long-term potential. Embedded in this indicator is another value: the number of CE start-ups in the port area. This gives an idea of the CE innovation in the port area. (Examples of incubation services: Prodock (Port of Amsterdam), Circular Kickstart (Antwerp, Gent, Bruges).)
  5. Share of port companies that are members of a CE platform/s in the port cluster. The indicator introduces the notion of a CE platform. This network of actors and players enhances collaboration, innovation, and/or knowledge transfer. The more members it holds, the greater its value resulting from synergies. This is particularly relevant in the context of the CE because it facilitates industrial symbiosis. For example, the production waste of one port company can be used as a valuable input in the production process of a different port company (An example of a CE platform is Smart Delta Resources (North Sea Port, Belgium/Netherlands).
  6. Share of non-recyclable waste generated onboard ships. The indicator relates to waste generated onboard ships, particularly the non-recyclable waste. In this case, the recyclable waste deposited at the port reception facility is assumed to be recycled. The non-recyclable waste, however, is disposed of. Existing codes defined internationally (such as the “D-codes’ developed by the European Union institutions) allow for distinguishing recyclable from non-recyclable waste.
  7. Share of cargo volume of end-of-life materials. The indicator has two components, namely, (a) import and (b) export, and identifies the volume of the cargo streams that relate to the CE, i.e., how the CE transition is reflected in ports’ cargo streams.
  8. Share of non-recyclable waste generated in the port area. Analogous to indicator no 6, this indicator concerns waste generated in the port area- the assumption is made that recyclable waste collected by the waste collection system is indeed recycled.
  9. Share of hectares of CE activities in the port area. This indicator relates to the land use within the port area and to what extent land is used for circular activities. The calculation is straightforward for concessionaires whose activities are fully circular, as the whole plot area can be included. However, the feasibility of providing an accurate value is limited for plots where circular activities are only a part of the total activities taking place.
  10. Share of direct employment from CE activities and projects in the port area. This indicator considers the issue of employment in the CE. Employment is an important factor for ports’ social license to operate, which makes it worthwhile to know how the CE transition may affect this. The feasibility of measuring this indicator depends on whether the circular activities comprise the total business activities.
  11. Amount of end-of-life material processed in the port area. This indicator is made up of four components: (a) material (tons), (b) water (liters), (c) energy (kilojoules), and (d) CO2 (tons). It relates to the processing of end-of-life material. Here, processing pertains to recycling and encompasses other R-levels, such as re-manufacturing, repair, and processing for internal and external reuse. Material, water, energy, and CO2 are prepared to be used as a new input. These are the main types of resources given a second life in the port area.
  12. Share of secondary material consumption in the port area. This indicator relates to the use of secondary material in the port area. Its four components are the same as those of the previous indicator: (a) material (tons), (b) water (liters), (c) energy (kilojoules) and (d) CO2 (tons). This indicator provides insight into using secondary materials instead of virgin materials by port companies. 

While the exercise is admittedly a “work in progress”, it provides a valuable instrument to ports for developing competitive advantages in the circular economy and benchmarking themselves against their competitors. A common set of relevant circular indicators that can potentially raise the circular ambitions of ports allows for baseline, follow-up, and benchmarking analysis. These circular indicators would also support the possibility of aggregating information across ports and show their collective efforts for society in this transition.