Re-connecting economies and people in the post-lockdown world must be done in a sustainable way.


    Stepping into the third month of the new reality where countries and economies are looking for ways forward, the key question is how to reconnect ourselves and how to link our exit strategies with the challenges still waiting for us since the pre-COVID-19 world. More precisely, when countries and economies look to rebound, do we commit ourselves to the sustainability plans and roadmaps which were drawn before March 2020?


    To answer these questions, a brief overview of the current situation is needed. Estonia, like nearly most of countries in Europe - as well as elsewhere in the world -  had all but locked down. The connections to other countries as far as the movement of people were essentially severed, even essential travel and repatriation were banned. However, cargo transport, though affected by the pandemic, continued operating.


    In mid-May, the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created a unique ‘Baltic Bubble’ for quarantine-free travel between those countries, which was the first of its kind in the EU. On June 15th, also passenger travel between Finland and Estonia resumed without limitations, which immediately drew considerable interest from both sides of the Finnish Gulf. Although travel restrictions have been gradually rolled back throughout Europe, we are witnessing in the post-COVID-19 period more attention to immediate neighbours by travellers. This fosters more sustainable travel patterns and helps to bond our nations even further, as well as strengthens the economic and cultural connections between the neighbouring countries.


    We at the Port of Tallinn are confident that the fundamentals have not changed. Our first task is to ensure the return of business and to tackle related current challenges. But similarly, the ability to focus on sustainability principles in conducting business is essential as it will no doubt become a competitive advantage.


    CLEAN is the keyword


    In 2019, the Port of Tallinn designed its own short-term and long-term sustainable development strategy, which aligns our priorities with the UN’s sustainable development goals. Those priorities are clean air, a clean Baltic Sea, energy efficiency and sustainable use of natural resources. As private individuals, all of us have been recently reminded of the necessity of a clean and hygienic environment around us. The same applies to businesses, including the maritime sector: cleaner air and sea, but also an entirely cleaner approach towards business are in the common interests of us all, in times of economic stress, too.


    The Port of Tallinn is committed to continuing its initiatives in the field of sustainable development. This ensures our business is developed based on the globally agreed upon SDGs. Those initiatives – several of which have already been implemented – include the following:

    • The Smart Port traffic management system in the Old City Harbour.
    • Taking heavy cargo vehicles and cars out of the city centre.
    • Mitigating odour nuisances caused by the cargo of the oil terminals using air quality monitoring systems and an e-nose network in Muuga Harbour.
    • Creating an on-shore power supply system for ferries in the Old City Harbour.
    • Installing automated mooring systems in the Old City Harbour.
    • Granting more eco-friendly vessels a discount on port dues based on the Environmental Ship Index (ESI).
    • Contributing to the cleaner Baltic Sea by helping prevent the discharge of waste from ships into the sea. 
    • Supporting ships that have invested in scrubber systems in order to reduce sulphur compounds (SOx) in their emissions and accepting scrubber waste without any additional charge.
    • Increased energy efficiency and fostering the use of renewable energy. For example, in planning buildings and infrastructure, we use Digital Building Information Modelling (BIM) for improving the functionality of the facilities and implementing sustainable solutions as early as in the design phase.Our new cruise terminal, which is to be completed in 2021, will use sea water for heating and cooling and will receive supplementary electricity from solar panels.


    Our progress towards these goals is independently audited: we participate in the CSR index questionnaire of the Responsible Business Forum in Estonia, and in 2020 the Port of Tallinn was again awarded a CSR silver quality label. In addition, TS Laevad, the subsidiary of the Port of Tallinn operating ferry traffic between Estonian mainland and the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, has been awarded a CSR bronze label.


    As we look ahead, we all hope to return to normal. This also includes the ‘normal’ in which SDG’s, the EU’s Green Deal concept and circular economy are reinstated as key principles for maritime business. We cannot speak on behalf of everyone else in the industry, but for the Port of Tallinn, those principles form the backbone of our contribution to the sustainable development agenda in the upcoming post-COVID-19 reality as well. We are confident that every responsible enterprise will act alike. 


    Ellen Kaasik, Head of Quality and Environmental Management, Port of Tallinn
    Sirle Arro, Head of Marketing and Communication, Port of Tallinn.