The Port of Barcelona: From 2.0 to 4.0

Barcelona, 10 de noviembre del 2021.- The Port of Barcelona has presented the grants for innovative ideas and projects of Ports 4.0, the corporate open innovation model of Puertos del Estado and the Spanish Port Authorities.

The main objective of the Ports 4.0 fund is to develop a new product, service, process, or improve an existing technology with a new innovative component for application in the logistics-port sector.

Carles Rua, head of innovation at the Port of Barcelona, underlined that “the applications submitted must promote the achievement of solutions in one or more areas of logistics-port activity.”

This year, in the second call of the Ports 4.0 fund, the total budget of the grants has been increased by 50%. For ideas or concepts, a grant of EUR 750,000 is provided. For commercial projects, the amount of aid amounts to EUR 6 million.

Until September 2021, the Port of Barcelona maintained double-digit growth in freight traffic. Container throughput was up 30.6% compared to the same period in 2020, amounting to 2.7 million teu. In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, January to September 2021 saw 6% growth in container flows.

China continues to be the Port of Barcelona’s largest trading partner, with a 21% increase in container exchange. Behind are the United States (15.8%), Turkey (17.1%), India (28.5%) and the United Arab Emirates (11.5%).

Total goods throughput between January and September 2021 amounted to 50 million t, 17.9% higher than in the same nine months of the previous year. Bulk solids grew by 14.1% to 3.4 million t and cars increased by 16.9% to almost 375,000 units. The only exception was bulk liquids, which reflect the decline in natural gas and petrol, going down by 6.7%.


The port of Barcelona’s greatest strength is our diversification, both of traffic and activities. The 500 companies and 37,000 workers in the port community move all kinds of goods, ranging from containers to solid bulk and including energy products. All of this makes us more resilient to crises. Companies operating in our hinterland also showed their strengths, with exports remaining positive. Our total volumes remain very positive, with growth of more than 7% overall, and with some goods, such as containers, shooting up – the segment grew by 25% in the first quarter this year.


Western economies and their trade are expected to stagnate in the coming years, whilst parts of Asia, inclu­ding the Far East, will consolidate as global economic and political centres. We also expect increased trade with markets with high demographic potential, such as ­Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, which currently enjoy privileged relations with China.


Sustainability is an overarching concept for us, with the three aspects environment, economic and social – and we also incorporate governance. Our goal is to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 and to become a carbon-neutral port by 2050. To achieve this, we must work together in public-private partnerships – with shipping lines with cleaner ships and zero emissions in port; with terminals with energy savings; and by using renewable energy. SDG 17 – public-private partnerships – is one of the keys to achieving these goals.


Transferring container traffic to a zone furthest away from urban areas will, on the one hand, minimise the environmental externalities of port activity on population centres, and create new spaces close to the city for more public uses. It will simultaneously help us to ­optimise port operations and create synergies between the various players in the logistics chain. We’ve just launched a tender for a geotechnical campaign to obtain information on the land’s characteristics in the southern part, which is an essential step towards increasing berths, as well as towards construction of the Catalunya wharf. This first phase of the project is expected to be executed in 20 months.


The ultimate goal is to have a double railway network in the port, and a large logistics node allowing all railway movements to be managed. In October we signed the protocol for the construction of new road and rail access routes with our public partners, that is the ministry of public works, the Catalan government, the railway infrastructure manager Adif and the Spanish state port body Puertos del Estado.


In 2010 we completed a previous study on the gateway’s economic impact on the hinterland. Since then we’ve experienced major changes at all levels, particularly in the fields of innovation and digitalisation, and want to assess the current state of play therein. This should help us to assess the qualitative improvement the port has made in recent years, for example the 5G maritime project, which monitors and optimises port berthing operations.


Our aim for the channel is to foster social interaction with the public and to bring the port closer to Barcelona’s residents, visitors, users and workers. We’d like users to spread their vision of the port by ­sharing their photos and videos with the hashtag #HistòriesdelPort [#Port­Stories]. We’ll publicise the 150-year history of our wide-ranging artistic and cultural heritage, and will additionally provide information about the leisure options and entertainment activities on offer in the port’s public area, located in the old Port Vell section of our hub.

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