Port of Alicante
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|Port of Alicante|
|Owned by||Port Authority of Alicante|
|Type of harbor||Natural/Artificial|
|Miguel Antonio Campoy
Juan Ferrer Marsal
|Annual cargo tonnage||3,000,000 tonnes (2000)|
|Annual container volume||113,000 TEU's (2000)|
The port has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour). In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruises in 2007, bringing some 80,000 cruise passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year.
The 1990s marked possibly the greatest changes in the modern history of the port of Alicante. The Special Plan for the Port ('PEP' in Spanish) of 1992 allowed the port to plan an expansion towards the south, and made provisions for converting some of the quayside into a zone of seafood restaurants, an extensive promenade with modern bars and nightclubs open until dawn. To reduce the visual impact on the coastline, integrating the port better with the city, and thus complying with local and European planning laws which now prohibit the construction of buildings (especially tall buildings) next to the coast, the PEP made provision for a maximum height of 12 metres (39 ft) for buildings in the port area, leaving the possibility for certain structures (such as cranes) to exceed this height only if the necessity is proven.
This Special Plan for the Port of 1992 permitted, inter alia, the expansion of the port towards the south, in parallel to the coast and side-by-side to the residential neighbourhoods of the south of the city, reclaiming land from the sea in order to build four new quays, designed to house a new passenger terminal for the ferries to Africa (32,000 m2 (340,000 sq ft) of land), a new multi-use terminal for container traffic (150,500 square metres (1,620,000 sq ft)) and a new cargo terminal (120,000 square metres (1,300,000 sq ft)). According to the Port Authority, the plan made provisions for the relocation of the four silos currently[when?] on Quay 14 (next to the cruisers’ dock, at some 800 m from the nearest homes) to the new plots in the Port Extension Zone, which are between some 400 m and 1500 m from the urban centre of the city. This development has allowed the city to open itself up more to the sea, and, with the construction of the leisure facilities in the port area in the centre of the city, the port was able to make provisions to remove industrial installations, such as the old petroleum deposits of Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (previously known as CAMPSA), and relocate them far from the coast and city, to protect the environment and quality of life in the city.
In 1995, Alicante City Council, the Port Authority, the central government and the regional government (the Generalitat) signed an accord to remove these fuel deposits from the port, with the aid of some 19 million Euros, mostly from EU funding. In the words of the Joint Declaration they signed, "in the future there should be no installations for the storage or distribution of petroleum products in the Port of Alicante" "in light of the negative repercussions of possible accidents, with the consequent environmental impact, in such fuel installations situated close to residential zones". This, they added "reduced the risks of traffic accident with vehicles transporting petroleum derived products within the city", the signatories noting that the Accord had "a clear social interest, with favourable repercussions for the environmental aspects".
In 1999, this relocation was eventually carried out, with the Port Authority receiving offers to build a new leisure complex on the site. Later in 1999, Alicante City Council, governed by Luis Díaz Alperi, granted the construction licence to the Marina de Poniente company to build this new centre of restaurants, leisure activities and cinema. Even then, the national newspapers reported planning irregularities concerning the maximum height established by the Special Plan for the port.
In 2003, Alicante Port Authority obtained the environmental licences with the necessary conditions to construct the zone of expansion for the port based firmly on the model of a commercial port. This project is also co-financed by millions of Euros in European Union FEDER funding.
The port of Alicante has obtained, in this manner, an opportunity to develop and grow alongside the city, creating a better maritime environment for the booming tourist industry and for the residents in the city, and allowing a greater harmonization with urban planning in the city (especially on the Mediterranean coast, symbol of Alicante's tourism appeal). This development has witnessed the simultaneous transfer of the industry in the coastal area of the city known as the "Southern Entrance" of the city, linked to the airport and the motorways. Industry was shifted to inland industrial estates, far from the residential neighbourhoods, and housing schemes together with new hotels and new urban infrastructure were announced in the south of the city. Alicante City Council authorized the construction of new housing in the zone next to the port expansion in the residential neighbourhoods of San Gabriel, Benalúa and Babel, where some 21% of the city's residents reside, maintaining and building on the strong link between port and city.
Until early 2006, the changes and the expansion of the port took place on the basis this model, and the development in the port was smooth. The City Council promised urban regeneration for the southern neighbourhoods, the basis for the huge land reclamation project of the port alongside was clearly as a commercial and passenger port, and plans were announced to re-model the Southern Entrance to Alicante, with "green routes", cycle paths, parks and nature reserves making the most of the beautiful and fragile coastal environmental.
It was in this context that other landmarks in recent history - such as the opening of the European Union's Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the construction of the polemic Ciudad de la Luz, a series of facilities meant to sponsor movie industries to set base at Alicante, next to the coastal Southern Entrance to the city - took place
However, the original plans for the port extension zone experienced a major change in August 2006 when the port published a new and previously uncontested project for an industrial chemical factory in the zone of expansion of the port, which it declared would be the largest factory producing "biofuels" in the whole of Spain, and amongst one of the largest in Europe). The Port Authority did not inform any local residents directly, despite the fact that the local Spanish law governing industrial activities lays down that such factories should be located at least 2000 m from residential areas. The President of the Port Authority (Mario Flores) declared that the end product (biodiesel) was totally non-contaminating and posed no risk for the neighbouring residential areas. He made no mention of the thousands of tons of highly toxic and inflammable raw materials that the factory proposed to use each year, such as the 20,000 tons of methanol, 3,000 toneladas of sodium hydroxide, a million kilograms of sodium methylate and nearly 2,500,000 kg of hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid which the massive industrial plant would require each year.
In October 2006, Alicante Port Authority announced in the local press that the biodiesel plan would be sited 2000 m away from the residential zones of the city, the minimum distance as required by the relevant Act, but the local press measured that the factory's site was nearly half of this distance, some 1200 m from the urban centre of the city.
There was also press and public criticism of the storage of thousands of tons of normal diesel fuel in enormous tanks in the port extension zone next to the factory, which was alleged to undermine the Accord made in 1995 when the previous fuel tanks were removed to a safe zone far from the city in the 1990s.
Accordingly, in October 2006, when the Port Authority announced that it was requesting the construction licence from the City Council, the opposition from the local residents in Alicante was immediate.
The residents organized themselves in an association called the 'Platform' in Defence of the Port which received massive local press coverage and they organized various public marches and demonstrations in the centre of Alicante with thousands of people, protesting against this plan to convert the port extension zone from becoming an industrial estate, which they asserted would be illegal and not in accord with the environmental licences obtained in 2003 by the Port.
In November 2006, a local newspaper survey showed that public opinion was in favour of biodiesel as an alternative fuel, but strongly against the plan to locate a massive factory of this nature right next to thousands of homes. Meanwhile, under popular pressure, the company behind the project admitted that the industrial factory would only be some 1,200 m from the city's population, but justified this location by declaring to the local press that the port extension zone was an industrial estate in any case so the short distance from the city’s residential areas was not important.
In December 2006, the residents' Platform for the Defence of the Port, together with other associations both neighbourhood associations and opposition political parties such as Izquierda Unida and the PSOE socialist party (the party of the national government)signed a manifesto rejecting the use of the port as an industrial estate given its proximity and importance to the city. The UGT trade union and the local green party also voiced their public opposition and stated that the port was not a suitable place to construct an industrial estate, given the distance of less than 2000 m from the urban centre of the city and the fragile nature of the coastal zone.
On 28 December 2006, the Port Authority declared to the local press that, given the citizens' rejection of the biodiesel plant in the port, it was considering postponing another controversial decision regarding the transfer of the 4 cement dust ("clinker") silos situated on Quay 14 to the port extension zone, since it did not want to create new public outrage.
On 22 March 2007, Alicante City Council made its decision to reject the licence application for the biodiesel chemical factory project, citing merely the fact that the projected factory breached the height limit (25 m, well over the general limit of 12 m of the Special Plan of the Port) and the fact that it lacked the necessary traffic impact studies and road distribution licences for fuel distribution, without needing to base their decision on environmental law.
In August and September 2007, despite the declarations to the Press of December 2007, Alicante Port Authority published five more large-scale industrial projects of the port extension zone – for the unloading of more than 100, 000 thousand tons of clinker cement dust a year, its storage in up to 21 “mega-silos” towers between 26 m and 55.2 metres (181 ft) in height (plus unloading apparatus some 5 m high on the top of each mega-silo) with three cement plants (up to some 21–25 m high) for processing, bagging and distributing the cement. The proposed mega-silos 55 m high in the project of Sabanci Cements (reported to be equal to a 15–20-storey building in height), as well as all the other mega-silos are far taller than the three silos currently situated on Quay 14, which are only 8 metres (26 ft) high (and thus within the Port Extension Zone general limit). Once again, the local residents and the opposition political parties voiced their strong opposition to the Port Authority's plans for the port's future.
According to the opposition parties (the PSOE, the Izquierda Unida, the Bloc), residents’ associations from across Alicante and the residents’ Platform in Defence of the Port, the height of these planned mega-silos and factories, far in excess of the 12-metre (39 ft) general limit, would serve to create a towering wall of massive industrial silos on the city’s Mediterranean shores, where no other building in the zone is more than 12 m high. Due to the proximity to the residential zones, the opposition has alleged (with EU presenting questions to the Spanish Congress in November 2007) that the barrier of concrete silos will serve as a sound board, which would reflect the current traffic noise plus (all the additional noise generated from the plants and associated heavy trucks) back into the residential zones of the city, causing an enormous environmental nuisance. Neither the Port Authority nor the projects have conducted any overall study of the associated environmental pollution (in particular the visual impact and the noise pollution) of all these proposed projects, and the only solutions they offer are to paint the mega-silos. One of the projects, for the highest of the mega-silos, suggests “camouflaging” the towering structures nearly 60 m high and “deflecting the visual perception” by building an attractive “landmark” building nearby, but no details have been given of how.
In a press declaration by the Citizens' Platform, the group voiced their indignation and fear over the future of the Port. Izquierda Unida revealed that the “clinker” dust, the prime ingredient for Pórtland cement, is widely recognized even by the very same cement companies as a health risk with potentially dangerous components.
These projects have caused a hitherto unseen rejection by a large part of Alicante’s population, both individuals and organized groups such as the Platform in Defence of the Port, the AVV Gran Vía Sur Puerto Alicante, la AVV San Gabriel–and with the support of various local political groups (e.g. Izquierda Unida, the PSOE,Ezquerra Republicana, the Young Greens, Vecinos por Alicante, together with other ecologists and the CGT trade union in the Port there is strong opposition to this overall project to convert the port extension zone into a massive industrial estate. Despite all of this, the Port Authority of Alicante (in particular its new President Sergio Campos, and its former President Mario Flores) persist with their plans to create an industrial and cement zone where none was ever publicly planned. More than 2000 residents, their neighbourhood associations, and the mentioned political groups, have filed objections to the legality of these projects, which they consider to be illegal and ill-considered.
The various quays and sites within the Port Extension Zone, where it is proposed to locate these plants and mega-silos, lie between 600 m and 1,200 m from the closed residential zone of the city of Alicante. This breaches the minimum distance of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) laid down by Article 4 of the Spanish Regulation dealing with nuisances, unhealthy, harmful and dangerous activities.
The objections also centre on the fact that the Port Extension Zone, funded by EU subsidies, does not have the obligatory environmental impact assessment reports and permissions to operate as an industrial zone, breaching Article 1(3) of the Spanish Law 6/2001 on Environmental Impact Assessments (“EIA”), (implementing the the European Environmental Impact Directive) which states that “Public or private projects, consisting in realising constructions, installations, or any other activity included in Annex II (Annex 2 Grupo 7. Infrastructure Projects (a) Projects to create industrial zones ) of this Decree shall be submitted to an EIA in the manner laid down by this law, as the environmental body with local jurisdiction shall decide. This decision shall be reasoned and published in accordance with the criteria established in Annex III.” Further, Article 1(3) of the same Law contains an alternative provision stating that “That established in the above paragraph shall not apply to those projects for which the regulations of the Autonomous Communities, in the exercise of their competences, either require an EIA or in any case, establish thresholds in accordance with the criteria of Annex 3, to determine when such projects must be subject to an EIA.” In spite of this, the Port Authority has no such EIA for the overall Project to convert a substantial part or all of the Port Extension Zone into an industrial zone. No such EIA (for the creation of the whole zone, that is, all the cement projects, the biodiesel industrial production factory, the liquid fertilizer industrial production plant together), and in the absence of such an overall assessment it can only be assumed that no reasoned and published decision based on the criteria established by Annex III (which explicitly requires taking into account characteristics of the projects such as the size of the project, the overall effect in addition to other projects, pollution and other negative impacts, the risk of accidents, with special consideration of clouds of dust particles suspended in the air. In regard to the siting of projects for the creation of industrial zones, Annex III stipulates that the environmental sensitiveness of the geographical areas that might be affected by the projects shall be taken into account, in particular, the current use of the zone, with special attention to be paid to: coastal areas (as in the case of the Port of Alicante), nature reserves and parks (as in the case of the nearby Site of Community Interest, the Island of Tabarca, recognised by the European Commission) for its enormous environmental importance, areas of great democratic density (like the residential neighbourhoods of Alicante right next to the zone) and zones of historical and cultural interest (such as the coastal landscape of Alicante). This beautiful coastal landscape is also protected by the European Landscape Convention 2000, Spanish Law 4/2004 of the Autonomous Region of the Communidad of Valencia and European Directive 92/43/EEC. Alicante Port Authority’s President has replied that the construction of the cement dust mega-silos was decided in 1992, although this was not mentioned in the previous President’s declarations to the press in December 2006. The new President, Campos, has stated that the number of new silos is negotiable but insists that a minimum height of 12 m for the various mega-silos is technically necessary merely for the trucks to be able to drive underneath for the vertical loading of the cement dust. On top of this height, he has stated, sit the silos themselves (currently 8 m high on Quay 14 of Alicante Port). Against what the Port says is this “technically necessary height” of a total of 20 m, the residents say that the silos need only be raised some 4 or 5 m from the ground in order to vertically unload into trucks, and adding the 8 m high silos above this would give a total of some 12 m, within the general height restrictions of the Port, and would allow the re-siting of the four silos on Quay 14 with the minimum visual and environmental (including noise, cement dust and traffic) impact.
In October 2007, the Residents’ Association AVV Gran Vía Sur filed complaints about the environmental pollution caused by the constant clouds of clínker cement and carbon unloaded in the open air in Quay 17 of the Port, filming a video evidencing the total lack of environmental control by the Port Authority. Although the Port Authority has recognised that hermetically sealed silos are necessary to prevent escape of clinker cement dust in order to prevent the formation of dangerous clouds of particles suspended in the air, for more than 10 years they have taken no preventative measures at all to reduce this level of contamination. While pushing for the construction of up to 21 mega-silos only a few metres away in the Port Extension Zone, they have made no proposal to replace the open air mountains of clinker and carbon dust with strict controls of when unloading may take place (not on days of high wind, not if dust is reaching residential areas) with covered systems to prevent the escape of the dust into the air, as in the Spanish ports of Santander, Malaga, Bilbao, Ferrol, or La_Coruña. The Port Authority insisted that this dust was of no risk to health – until the Platform of residents and their environmental lawyers pointed out that the cement companies themselves admit that the dust contains dangerous substances and that clouds of the dust in the air must be avoided. The President of the Port publicly insisted that the environmental controls were already "rigorous" until this video and the local opposition forced him to admit that the opposite is the case, and he has publicly said that the Port needs to clean up its act.
In mid-October 2007, the “Conselleria” (Environmental Department) of the Autonomous Region of Valencia announced a detailed project to recuperate the maritime façade of Alicante, including the urban façade facing the sea – running 15 km south along the coast from the old Station of Murcia, passing the extension zone of the port, and continuing through to Urbanova, and Santa Pola. This project involves the creation of the “Alicante Southern Coastal Park’ beginning from the zone immediately in front of the port’s reclaimed land, complete with a continuous “green pedestrian corridor” connecting the city with the wetlands to the south, an area classified as having international natural importance. The Directorate-General for Landscape in Valencia will be in charge of the project, and the zone is officially recognised as being of undoubted natural, cultural and visual interest. The Environmental Department has declared that this requires careful protection and management in order to reap ecological, social, urban and economic benefits from the coastal strip.
Towards the end of October 2007, the President of Spain’s State Ports body, Mr Mariano Navas, added his voice to the debate about the future of the port of Alicante. He emphasized the “extraordinary situation of the port of Alicante” in light of its location right next to the city centre, and requested that the port’s governing body and the Port Authority exercise a great “environmental sensitivity” in which “environmental questions should not be seen as a burden falling on the head of the management” but rather “an additional element to take into account, in a completely internalised manner, in taking-making”. He urges the Port Authority to bear in mind that “the port simultaneously represents the maritime facade of a city, and that this requires a careful treatment”.
On 31 October 2007, the Administrative Board of the Port Authority nevertheless granted the internal approval for the 5 projects for the installation of cement dust plants and mega-silos on the city’s coast, without answering any of the thousands of oppositions filed and without any changes to the plans. The PSOE members on the Board voted against the projects, while the PP Mayor and his City Council representative on the Board abstained after calling on the Port Authority to modify all the projects to lower the height of the buildings to within the 12 m maximum set out by the Special Plan for the Port. The Mayor also called on the Port Authority to seek an immediate solution to the clouds of dust occasioned by the open air unloading of cement in the port. The Administrative Board, however, passed by a majority the motion to pass the projects without modification to the City Councils Planning Department to decide whether construction licences should be granted for such projects so close to the city centre and to be built right in the centre of the city’s coastal strip. The vote of the Administration Board of the Port Authority, taken without responding first to any of the thousands of citizens’ objections, has increased and European environmentalists’ indignation.
On 4 November 2007, the President of the Port Authority, Sergio Campos, gave an interview in the national press about the various problems and the local opposition encountered in relation to the new plans for Alicante port. He indicated that the biodiesel chemical plant may have to be located elsewhere (given that the City Council rejected the application for its construction licence because its 20-metre planned height exceeds the 12 m general limit for the port and due to the lack of studies and licences for the distribution by road of the end product). Campos also admitted that “the port’s concern for the environment is grows stronger day by day” in light of the pressure from the residents, the city, and local and national government, and recognised that “Alicante is a commercial port not an industrial port” but he insisted again that the mega-silos are necessary since they are a “relocation” of the 3 silos 8 m high in Quay 14. He also recognised publicly, for the first time, that at present “clinker cement dust and carbon are moved by grain and bulldozer, and that if there is a strong wind it is true that clouds of dust are produced”. He admitted that the measures set out in the 2003 environmental permission for the port (use of chutes, screens, closed conveyor belts, watering systems, taking measures to prohibit unloading on days of high wind, measuring dust particles in the air during unloading) had not been taken but he stated his “desire” to implement them in the future. He made it clear that these open-air activities are planned not only to continue but to grow in future, and that they are not being substituted by the plans for the mega-silos and cement dust plants. On 6 November 2007, the editorial of a local newspaper summed up the situation by stating that “What is clear is that once built, these silos for the storage of cement will substantially change the appearance of the city of Alicante, above all when viewed from the sea or from the coastal roads, and the projects will eclipse the Castle of Santa Barbara and the “Cara del Moro”, the historical symbols of Alicante city, relegating them to a secondary position”.
Rather than read and respond to each point made in the citizens’ objections to the 5 projects, on 13 November 2007 the Port Authority published a single reply in the Official Bulletin of the Province – Alicante – no. 222. The Port declared that the objections in relation to the excess height of the silos and plant, and the impact on the coastal landscape, were “mere opinion". In an Open Letter dated 15 November 2007 to Juan Ferrer, Director of Alicante Port Authority, a local industrial engineer criticised the single published response as not answering many important questions and objections.
On 14 November 2007, two Spanish MPs tabled a series of questions to the Spanish Congreso (Parliament) regarding the projects and the aim to convert Alicante port into an industrial estate, and requested the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to clarify the position of his government. On 23 November 2007, the residents’ Platform in Defence of the Port, together with seven other neighbourhood and local citizens’ organisations representing over 20,000 households in the city, visited to the Register of Alicante City Council (‘Ayuntamiento’) and filed more than 10,000 signatures against making the port extension into an industrial estate so close to residential neighbourhoods, as well as copies of more than 2,500 objections to the cement projects for the 17 towering silos and three cement factories. The signatories criticized the port for “carrying out the planning for its development and growth as if it were a private enterprise governed only by the profit motive, and seeking loopholes or ways in which not to comply with the law in force”. For this reason, they alleged that the Port of Alicante had caused a “frontal collision with fundamental citizens’ rights, such as the right to health and safety”. They noted that “the only hope for Alicante at an institutional level lies with Alicante City Council, who should do all in their power to defend the rights of the citizens in Alicante.”
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