Written by Anne Dequeker

12 August 2022


Why odors emissions are ports’ most important problem to solve?

Ports environmental priorities

Ports are more and more concerned about their environmental impact, especially air quality. According to the European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO), for port decision makers and authorities, air quality has risen from the sixth highest priority in 2003 to the highest since 2013. Energy consumption and noise have also been of interest to port authorities in the past few years. The environmental impact of ports is usually caused by ships and their traffic.

Today, 54% of European ports are using greener and more environmentally friendly ships thanks to the differentiated port charges offered by the authorities. But ships are not the only reason why ports are generating pollution, the operations are also the source of many nuisances.


ESPO Sustainability report on port’s priorities (2018)

Ports operations are a series of procedures to ensure the management of:

  • Vessels
  • Cleaning of the railway’s carriages
  • Handling equipment, storage, and warehousing facilities related to the transportation of goods
  • Development and maintenance of supporting infrastructure, such as inland ports

Besides having a bad impact on the environment, ports’ emissions have an impact on people. They can create conflicts with communities when gases and particles spill around ports. Worker safety is also at stake when it comes to environmental nuisances.

So how can ports limit their emissions? Monitoring the right compound could be a game changer for ports!

Odors & nuisances monitoring: a solution for ports

The handling of hazardous materials such as oil, dredging and waste disposal, wastewater, and cargo transportation in the hinterland often produce emissions such as malodors. The use of fossil fuels can emit gases such as No2, So2, and H2S, which besides being toxic, generate strong odors. Dust and particulate matter as well as noise from the operations can also be disturbing.

Masking odors with air fresheners can be considered a solution to eliminate them and comply with standards. However, this type of remediation only produces a stronger odor, it does not get rid of the gases and bacteria that are already present.

This is where environmental monitoring comes as a great solution for port authorities. By implementing monitoring technologies, the effect of port activities on the environment can be systematically analyzed and measured.




Measuring the types of compounds in the air, or correlating emissions with factors such as humidity and temperature, can help ports develop effective environmental policies to limit nuisances. Moreover, analysis of the operations’ impact can help improve port management including the loading and unloading technologies and processes of oil products. Finally, emission sources analysis can be an asset when dealing with odor nuisances from surrounding companies or industries. In those cases, environmental data can be used to resolve conflicts and remediate toxic emissions more quickly.

To implement such a solution, the use of micro-sensors, IoT, and e-sensing technologies is now a must! These new devices are versatile and can be adapted to diverse needs. Associated with the right digital platform and based on the data collected from the devices, they will provide real-time indicators. Having easy-to-read information will allow for faster remediation of nuisances and make port activities smarter and greener in the long term.

Ports & local decision-makers: a partnership for sustainability?

To bring real change in port operation management, their relationship with local decision-makers seems to be a major key. Ports are usually located in urban areas, especially in Europe. Particulate matter, noise, and odors can therefore affect the life, comfort, and health of citizens living in neighborhoods surrounding ports. Moreover, sustainability has become a “hot topic”. Politicians, as well as citizens, are increasingly aware of the need to change the way we produce and live to preserve the environment, respect it, and thus reduce global warming as much as possible.

Partnering with local decision-makers can participate in creating a better image of ports within communities. This can be achieved by agreeing on environmental standards and creating more transparency on nuisances emitted by industrial operations. By doing so, ports can improve the way they operate to bring a better quality of life around them.

Today, there is an urgent need for industrial activities such as ports to become aware of their emissions. For sustainability and air quality reasons, but also to protect people. The use of e-sensing innovations can enable maritime professionals to not only advance their industry but also transform it to be more environmentally friendly.


About Ellona:

Ellona’s devices and platform are used to help port authorities to measure, analyze and remediate environmental nuisances with IoT and microsensors technology.

About Sinay:

Sinay is a tech start-up that helps maritime-based businesses around the world to manage data related to operations and environmental impacts.

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