By David Bolduc

On October 23rd in 2007, marine shipping executives reunited at the Port of Quebec’s Cruise Terminal to officially launch a long-awaited and worked on project. They all had  one common vision — to create a credible initiative that would challenge shipowners, ports and terminals alike to go above and beyond regulatory requirements to reduce every aspect of their environmental footprint.

Five years later, that program — Green Marine — has more than exceeded expectations, attracting participants from across North America, endorsements and collaborations with governments and NGOs, and international accolades. Most importantly, the marine industry has embraced the concept of continuous environmental improvement, dedicating staff and company resources to take concrete measures with significant results.

Inspired and bolstered by the CEOs on our governance Board, the organization initially set out to involve American and Canadian marine transportation enterprises on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Within a few short years of setting out on this mission, the program was expanded to include participants from the East Coast and West Coast of Canada and the United States.

Green Marine now has 68 participants – 21 ports, 23 terminals, shipyards and stevedoring companies, two Seaway corporations, and 22 domestic and international shipowners – committed to measuring their progress, and having the results independently verified and published.

The Green Marine program won an international Sustainable Shipping Award in 2011 and has received formal support from environmental groups like World Wildlife Fund and Ducks Unlimited, as well as endorsements from government agencies.

Collaborative Approach Attracts Participants

The Green Marine program came at a time when the world at large had become more environmentally conscious than ever — which certainly contributed to its meteoric growth.  However, participants have also said that they were attracted by the collaborative nature and results-based approach of the program.

Participant companies evaluate their performance on a five-level scale that ranges from regulatory compliance (level 1) to achieving excellence (level 5) with the aim of improving their record on nine priority environmental issues.

The evaluation criteria for each issue — which range from minimizing the introduction of aquatic invasive species and reducing GHG and air emissions to the prevention of water and land pollution — are determined with the input of environmental groups, technical experts, government agencies and industry representatives through Green Marine Environment Committees.

The beauty of this process is that it allows participants to regularly engage with environmental stakeholders and to give and gain knowledge through the sharing of information and experiences with other members of the industry.

Green Marine has more than 50 partners among companies, organizations and institutions that provide the maritime industry with environmental knowledge, products and services. Many of them share their expertise at the annual Green Tech conference on green technologies and innovation organized by Green Marine.  This event has become a valuable resource and opportunity for networking among environmental stakeholders and has even led to spin-off initiatives.

For example, most recently, shipowner Fednav Limited and WWF Canada started a conversation about Arctic operations on a coffee break at Green Tech that has now led to a formal partnership working together on three initiatives, the first of which is a comparison study of operational best practices for shipping in the Arctic.

Credible, Verified Results = Meaningful Change

The other aspect that participants have been attracted to is that the Green Marine program requires all participants to have their results verified by an independent third party every two years. Participants also agree to publicly report their individual results.  This underscores the seriousness of the environmental commitment that participants have made.

The publishing of all results allows participants to benchmark their process against the rest of the marine industry and also adds to the program’s credibility and transparency. Public disclosure of this kind of information is certainly becoming more common but remains quite rare in the private corporate world.

Public scrutiny is certainly an incentive to make meaningful change. But what I have perhaps found most gratifying about running this program is the genuine commitment that participant companies have made to make the Green Marine program a top priority in their business.  Going beyond regulatory compliance requires a company to quantify their environmental impacts and integrate best practices to start to minimize this — which in itself requires resources and employee buy-in.

But many of our participants are pushing beyond this level to invest in research projects, test and implement new technologies and significantly reduce energy consumption, air emissions and other environmental impacts.

The latest report card from the program shows that the overall environmental performance of participants has improved for the third year in a row.

This is particularly significant given that our membership has more than doubled since Green Marine’s inception in 2007, and the program’s scope has been expanded to focus on nine key environmental areas compared to the original five.

Performance results for 2011 reached an overall average level of 3.0 out of a possible 5, compared to 2.7 for 2010. This was actually the goal we set for the program when we started out five years ago, but wondered if it was too ambitious as the organization increased its membership by 112 per cent and broadened its scope in terms of compulsory reporting. The fact that our participants have attained this overall goal speaks volumes about their individual and joint commitment to steadily improve their environmental performance.

Shipowners posted the highest scores in their efforts to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions (average ranking to 4.2 from 3.6 a year earlier), which contribute to smog and acid rain, while ports stood out in their leadership in encouraging tenants and users to adopt best sustainable practices. Less than a year ago, for example, Port of Sept-Îles became the first port in North America with all its tenants and landowners, including terminals owned by  Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), Cliffs Natural Resources–Eastern Canada, Pointe-Noire division, and Esso, participating in the Green Marine environmental program.

Moving forward, Green Marine will continue its drive to expand its membership in North America along with developing recognition from provincial governments on the West Coast and Atlantic Canada and from U.S. agencies and departments.

This past year, Green Marine signed a memorandum of collaboration with Transport Canada and we also count 15 cities along with the bi-national Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative amongst our 40 official supporters.

We have recently welcomed Port Metro Vancouver as a new participant, which along with Neptune Terminals is taking a stewardship role within Green Marine by generously sharing their expertise and experience in improving sustainability. They build on a West Coast presence anchored by the Port of Prince Rupert, Seaspan Marine and Island Tug and Barge.

With our West Coast presence rapidly growing, we are looking at setting up an environment committee in that region over the next few months.

Green Tech 2013 will also be held for the first time in Vancouver – one of North America’s most cosmopolitan cities and a major Asia-Pacific gateway. The 6th annual conference will be held May 30 and 31 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Green Marine hopes the location will attract many new people in addition to those who attend every year because they appreciate the quality of the content and networking opportunities at the conference.

New Leadership Structure To Accommodate Expansion

To accommodate Green Marine’s continuing expansion, we have recently put a new corporate structure in place.

The new Board includes nine Presidents from both Canadian and American companies to reflect the organization’s bi-national character and diverse membership. The new structure gives the companies that participate in Green Marine’s environmental program the formal power to make key decisions as voting members of the corporation and its Board of Directors.

All 11 marine industry associations that previously managed Green Marine as voting members of the Board will remain involved in the program’s ongoing development as non-voting members. Ray Johnston, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce and Green Marine Management Corporation’s (GMMC’s) former Chair since its incorporation in 2007, will now serve as GMMC’s President. Anne Legars, Vice-President of the Shipping Federation of Canada, will continue as GMMC’s Secretary.

Scientific researchers, government agencies, environmental groups and other key stakeholders and industry representatives will continue to sit on Green Marine’s advisory and technical committees and working groups. They identify environmental priorities for their respective regions and discuss ideas for continuous, measurable improvement in the industry’s overall sustainability.

The new Board structure addresses the requirements of the much broader and more diversified group of companies involved in the program today, while also offering a more streamlined decision-making process. The changes will make the management of Green Marine more efficient and effective without losing the consultative approach.

Continuous Improvement Is the Name of the Game

As continuous improvement is the cornerstone of our program, Green Marine continues to further challenge its participants with new performance indicators. A new indicator for the prevention of spills and leakages has been added for ports and terminals. Although it was optional for the 2011 evaluations, 30 of our 39 ports and terminals opted to benchmark their performance in this area. The preliminary results averaged to 2.3 overall, which indicates all the efforts already being undertaken by the ports and terminals.

A new indicator has been established for the management of garbage aboard ships that shipowners and ship operators will incorporate into their 2012 evaluations. A garbage management indicator is also being discussed for ports.

As new regulations come into force, Green Marine will also update its existing evaluation criteria so that the goal will always be to go above and beyond regulatory requirements.

Green Marine continually demands more of its participants, and it’s a real testament to their commitment to their industry’s sustainability that, rather than protesting, they are the ones driving this campaign.

David Bolduc is the Executive Director of Green Marine Management Corporation.