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Four solutions to protect water quality and biodiversity in ports


As well as being important drivers of economic growth, ports are also places where people live and work. As such, they are key elements of a region’s attractiveness. As ports grow, special measures are needed to ensure that their natural environments are protected. Many different types of pollution might impact water environments in port areas, including macro-waste discharge, wastewater discharge from boats or hydrocarbons.
Focus on four innovations aiming at preserving water quality and protecting biodiversity in ports.

Credit: PictureReflex

An aquatic drone that monitors and cleans port waters

The Port of Rotterdam Authority, which runs one of the largest ports in the world, have tried an innovative solution to fight macro-waste – the Waste Shark. This aquatic drone, developed by RanMarineTechnology, can vacuum up to 500 kilos of waste. The size of a small car, it has an open “mouth” 35cm below the surface of the water. As well as sucking up waste, Waste Shark collects data on water quality, weather conditions and the depth of port waters. This data is then sent to the authorities. Four Waste Sharks have been tested for a six-month period in the Port of Rotterdam as part of a pilot project.

A bin that collects floating macro-waste

Seabin is an automated rubbish bin that collects floating waste and hydrocarbons in ports and marinas. Designed by two surf enthusiasts, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, it uses a pump that sucks up floating rubbish and collects it in a bag made of natural fibres. Along with its partner, systems integrator Poralu Marine, the Seabin Project is looking into the possibility of making its rubbish bins from recycled plastic, with the long-term goal of using the plastic collected by the bins to make new ones.

Ecological engineering to restore port environments

In Marseille, two innovative ecological engineering projects have been launched to enrich the environmental quality of the city’s port areas.

The Bionurse project, developed by Marseille metropolitan area and SUEZ aims to boost marine biodiversity in Pointe Rouge marina. Ports have taken over shallow coastal sea beds and fail to provide sufficient shelter for young fish that are particularly vulnerable to predators. The Bionurse project was launched to tackle this problem by building nurseries for juvenile fish in Pointe Rouge marina. These nurseries are artificial habitats designed to recreate Posidonia meadows. The juveniles can take shelter and grow to adult size in the nurseries before returning to the open sea to reproduce. The experimental nursery, which is 65 metres long, is scientifically monitored using a video counting system.

A second project has been launched by Marseille’s Grand Port Maritime and Rhône Corse Méditerranée Water Agency. The aim of the project, which is called Re-Cyst, is to reintroduce Cystoseira, a species of brown algae native to the Mediterranean Sea, inside the port and, more generally, restore marine flora damaged by human activities. By helping this fragile species to grow, the project aims to recreate a habitat for marine wildlife and build up food resources for many other species. Cystoseira is also a good indicator of the ecological condition of shallow coastal sea beds. The project, which has been scientifically monitored for three years, has been extended to restoration within a natural environment in Calanques National Park.

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