Setting a new course for sustainability

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


The term “sustainability” has perhaps suffered in recent years from overuse, but it finally seems that the pace is picking up. The current pandemic has highlighted our unarguable connection with the natural world, the inherent dangers of disrupting natural environments and our collective dependence on healthy ecosystems. Alarming manifestations of climate change and a consequent urgent global call to reduce carbon emissions and protect biodiversity, have meant that matters have been brought much closer to home.  This is being reflected in marinas via multiple efforts to engage with controlling pollution, educating people about their local marine biodiversity and promoting responsible use of resources.

The World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) has put sustainability at the heart of impulses to restart tourism in light of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. Their One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery is structured around “public health, social inclusion, biodiversity conservation, climate action, circular economy and governance and finance.” As regards public health, marinas are following their corresponding authorities’ guidelines and taking the trouble to inform visitors and residents about new protocols. The UNTWO stresses that COVID-19 hygiene and safety methods shouldn’t have harmful effects on the environment, examples of which are ensuring that single-use plastic gloves, etc. are successfully collected and strong chemical detergents aren’t flushed into the sea*. Equally, rerouting, to avoid points of congestion around the marina, should take care not to generate barriers for people with reduced mobility.

Connecting with the community is vital, from collaborative actions to simple reciprocal promotion. There are plenty of examples of marinas working with local authority programmes to enhance employment opportunities, or with academic and conservation bodies in order to carry out studies that set up all-important indicators to help measure progress. Collective endeavours that help conserve the local biodiversity are evidently beneficial across the board, including, for example, how nature-based solutions, such as kelp forests or seagrass meadows, can boost climate-change resilience.

As ever, TransEurope Marinas members are an inspiration, with considerable work being carried out in these areas. VY Nieuwpoort in Belgium recently reported extending their renewable energy use to include a swathe of solar panels, and social networks are currently full of images of marinas raising their new Blue Flags – with four members in the Netherlands proudly claiming the top national “Green Pennant” accolade. Various marinas across Europe have long-standing relationships with universities, aquariums or institutes and welcome study groups who carry out investigations in port waters.

Throughout the network, zero-carbon mobility or public transport is promoted for visiting nearby services and attractions, and environmental guidelines are often posted alongside general information. Conservation efforts in Royal Quays Marina in the UK, led to the creation of “Tern Island” and over in Greece, on the island of Skyros, an ambitious and wide-ranging project goes as far as to include an academy for environmental educators.

Our article on Ports Propres, describes how some of our French members have opted for a new type of ecological certification, considered to focus more specifically on day to day marina operations.

This year’s Grand Pavois boat show in La Rochelle, taking place from the 27th September to the 4th October, has chosen clean energy as a central theme. The event line-up includes a conference for professionals on the topic of renewal energy in boating, a section dedicated to start-ups promoting alternative types of boat propulsion and a “Ports of Tomorrow” area on the pontoons displaying electric boats with a corresponding charging pedestal, ahead of proposed French legislation for marinas to install one per 100 berths.


Without clean healthy seas, strong biodiversity and a thriving coastal leisure/industry base, the industry will face an uncertain future.

National Environmental Roadmap – British Marine

Over in the UK, the latest British Marine Magazine featured an inspiring and comprehensive new National Environmental Roadmap, setting out a proactive approach to implementing necessary changes, by assisting members, over a variable time-frame, with meeting current legislative obligations and future environmental targets in order to work towards a sustainable future.

The roadmap is product of an extensive survey carried out amongst British Marine members, combined with current and proposed government regulations and reflecting environmental trends. Topics covered include waste management strategies, air and water pollution, alternative power, supply chain and materials and end-of-life vessels.

Striving for industry reform, this strategic vision makes a sound case for moving towards a circular economy and making sustainability an intrinsic part of marina management. Whilst whether we are moving fast enough is debatable, the good news is that with the path being ever more clearly defined, government bodies offering incentives to help finance smarter systems, local businesses in various countries already beginning to meet these challenges and social perception driving a trend in greener propulsion, we are starting to head in the right direction, and deservedly respecting those who are effectively making a difference.

As ever, shared good practice is invaluable as we can continue to learn much from each other.


*”Disinfecting boats can be carried out using very diluted (generally 1:5) sodium hypochlorite solutions, which is not applied as a wash, but with a rag or spray on the surfaces. With the passage of time chlorine oxidizes.  When dissolved with water it breaks down into sodium cations and chloride anions, already abundant in seawater. Solar radiation also facilitates the decomposition of hypochlorite into chlorides and sodium cations. It is not therefore considered a risk to the environment.” José Luís Fayos – anen