North Sea Port wins European ESPO Award for nature restoration

Published on Wed 8 Nov 2023
North Sea Port has won the annual award presented by the European sea ports association ESPO. North Sea Port was recognised for constructing buffer zones in the Canal Zone and nature restoration in the Moervaart Valley. By these means, the port is enhancing quality of life for local residents.

North Sea Port's project involves the construction of nature corridors, which shield residential areas in the Ghent Canal Zone and the Moervaart Valley from the port and industry. In doing so, nature development and nature restoration are paramount, but the port also earmarks land for recreation, small-scale agriculture, orchards, hiking trails and bike paths. Where possible, multifunctional thinking is applied: for example, a fire water basin can double as a pond, providing a transit refuge for protected bird species. This turns the nature corridors into unique places.

Daan Schalck, CEO North Sea Port: “The areas are buffer zones that not only bring more greenery to the port but also maintain a balance between good-quality work, home and living environments. These efforts are closely coordinated with all stakeholders, including local residents.

Dimitrios Theologitis, chair, speaking on behalf of the jury members, said: “We were impressed by the commitment shown by ports to nature restoration and biodiversity. Each of the ten projects has its special merits and is an example and a source of inspiration for many others. We congratulate North Sea Port for its long-lasting commitment to the local community."

730 hectares

The entire project started with the construction of the first nature corridor in 2010. Eventually, the sixteen subsidiary areas in the Canal Zone will cover a full 730 hectares. Ten of them have already been completed. Overseeing their creation is the Ghent Canal Zone Project Office and the Flemish government (‘Vlaamse Landmaatschappij’).

Support for the port

ESPO (the European Sea Ports Organisation) presents this award annually to ports that translate corporate social responsibility into projects that benefit the local community and increase support for port development. The award has existed since 2009 and this year was the 15th edition. Each year, a specific angle is chosen, and this year the theme was nature restoration.

The independent jury included North Sea Port on the final shortlist of five ports for the "ESPO Award on Social Integration of Ports 2023". The winner's name was announced at the annual gala dinner held on Tuesday 7 November at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels. At the same occasion, ESPO was also celebrating its 30th anniversary as the voice of the European port sector.

About ESPO

The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) is the voice of seaports within the European Union. It represents ports and port associations from more than 20 member states plus Norway and ensures that the interests of seaports are not overlooked when formulating European policy. ESPO ensures that ports receive all the relevant information about that policy. Daan Schalck, CEO of North Sea Port, is currently vice-chairman of ESPO.

Pictures: ESPO, Vlaamse Landmaatschappij