The Port of Seville, the first Spanish port with official 'Working with Nature' certification from the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure

22 July 2021

The Port Authority of Seville (PAS) has received the official certification 'Working with nature' (WwN), issued by the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) for the project 'Creation of new wetlands for waterfowl in the Guadalquivir estuary from the improvement of navigation'. Thanks to this initiative, the PAS and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have recorded more than 50 species in the confined disposal facilities of the Port of Seville.  

The WwN certification recognizes the Port of Seville as the first national port system to apply the 'Working with Nature' philosophy, by combining the management of sediments from maintenance dredging deposited in confined disposal facilities with the creation of new habitats that favor the diversity of waterfowl in the estuary. The project has also been nominated for the 'Working with Nature 2024' award, which will be presented at the 35th PIANC World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

A jury of experts formed by representatives of PIANC have assessed the candidacy of the Port of Seville and awarded the official WwN certification to the new wetlands project. This group of experts belongs to the Environmental Commission (EnviCom) of the PIANC Association, which is composed of members from the United States, Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.

The EnviCom Committee addresses issues related to shipping and sustainability. To this end, this committee has created a set of working groups, including: a permanent one to deal with climate change; another on the European Water Framework Directive; and two more on adaptation to climate change and resilience of maritime and inland navigation, and on the 'Working with Nature' model.

The president of the Port Authority of Seville, Rafael Carmona, expressed his gratitude for PIANC's recognition, which "encourages us to continue advancing in our sustainability strategy, in which we combine the improvement of navigability and the environment and have a positive impact on biodiversity".  

"For us, Working with Nature is a key way of operating that allows us to reconcile the development of the Port and the natural environment and involves the main stakeholders of the estuary. With them, we work together on other projects, such as the Navigation Optimization project, for which we have created a participatory community with which we aim to identify solutions that favor the sustainable management of the environment", added the president.

The President of the Port Institution also wanted to highlight "the contribution of the scientific community, thanks to which it has been possible to develop an action protocol to enable alternative areas for waterfowl in the area of Doñana".

Together with the CSIC, the Port Authority of Seville has given a second life to the sediments extracted from the channel during the last maintenance dredging campaigns. To this end, the protocol has defined the creation of islands and dikes, as well as measures to maintain the water level in the land drains. Among the species observed in the wetlands, four species have been sighted that are catalogued as endangered: the brown pochard, the marbled teal, the crabeater egret and the coot; and one, the osprey, as vulnerable.      

For his part, the president of the PIANC Association, Francisco Esteban, congratulates the Port Authority of Seville for its proven commitment to the 'Working with Nature' philosophy, for having obtained the first WwN certificate awarded to a Spanish project, for which it has undergone a very rigorous evaluation process, and for what this represents as an incentive for future actions of the managing bodies of the Spanish ports and coasts.

The World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure began promoting the 'Working with Nature' model in 2008, with the publication of the WwN Philosophy Application Guide, focused on infrastructure projects that improve navigation.

For PIANC, the new model involves much more than simply mitigating the environmental impacts of a project. This way of thinking consists of seeking and identifying ways to achieve the project's objectives, working with natural processes to protect, restore or even improve the environment from the project's very conception.

This new way of thinking considers the objectives of a project from the perspective of the natural environment, rather than exclusively from a design perspective, and promotes the protection and improvement of the environment effectively and in parallel with economic development.

Like Seville, other European ports have incorporated the 'Working with Nature' model into their environmental strategy. One example is the port of Le Havre, which has worked on the rehabilitation of the Seine estuary; another is the port of Antwerp with actions in the Scheldt River; and ports in the rest of the world, such as Oakland in the United States, which has acted on the Middle Harbor basin.

Wetlands in the estuary

One of the projects that best exemplifies the 'Working with nature' approach is based on the sustainable management of confined disposal facilities at the Port of Seville.

Confined disposal facilities are areas where the Port Authority deposits the sediments extracted from the navigation channel during maintenance dredging campaigns. As a novelty, in recent campaigns the Port Authority has applied a protocol developed by the CSIC to provide alternative areas for aquatic birds in the Doñana surroundings.

This protocol includes measures for the morphological adequacy of the confined disposal facilities and for the management of the water surface. Once the sediments have been extracted, the sustainable management protocol establishes how to dispose of the sands in the confined disposal facilities to improve biodiversity. On the one hand, it defines the design of these spaces to offer more refuge areas for birds and proposes the creation of inner dykes and islets to provide greater protection against predators.

This initiative has also received recognition from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development in the Environment 2020 awards, in the category of Conservation, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development.

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