Port of Dunkirk: Committed to Integration

Published by  16 October, 2018 2:01 pm Leave your thoughts

Interview with M. Stéphane RAISON, Chairman of the Executive Board of Grand Port Maritime de Dunkerque (GPMD).

The Port of Dunkirk asked AGUR (the Planning & Development Agency) to produce a « Guide of best environmental and landscaping practices ». The Guide was approved by the Port of Dunkirk – Grand Port Maritime de Dunkerque (GPMD) on 29 June of this year, and is now attached to all new occupancy agreements signed with GPMD’s customers. It will also be incorporated into existing contracts as and when they are renewed. Finally, it will soon be available directly from the GMPD’s website. This approach, aimed at ensuring that industrial and logistics activities are properly integrated into the Dunkirk conurbation, its various municipalities and natural spaces, is of course of great interest to AIVP and the members of its worldwide network.

The Grand Port Maritime de Dunkerque has been an active member of AIVP since 1989!
The Communauté Urbaine de Dunkerque and the AGUR are AIVP members too.


AIVP – With the Planning and Sustainable Development Programme (2014), the Strategic Project for 2014-2018 on sustainable development, the natural heritage master plan, and so on, the Port of Dunkirk has adopted a very proactive approach to environmental management in recent years. Can you summarise the main priorities for this comprehensive approach, and how the new Environmental and Landscaping Best Practices Guide fits into it?

Stéphane Raison, Chairman of the Executive Board of Grand Port Maritime de Dunkerque (GPMD)
Until the start of the 2010s, the Port of Dunkirk’s approach to developing green spaces was focused largely on landscaping aspects. Over 25 years of working together with the Urban Community of Dunkirk mainly and also the département authorities, the port has developed 130 hectares of woodland, mostly close to or on the edge of residential areas. Some of the most important developments carried out on the port’s land include the Mardyck « green course », which is now a genuine biodiversity area in the west port.

The creation of the LNG terminal in the early 2010s was an opportunity for the Port of Dunkirk to recognise that development of the port territory (i.e. new industrial facilities and infrastructures) must go hand in hand with a proactive policy to protect and develop biodiversity.

For almost ten years now, the Port of Dunkirk has been focusing part of its efforts on the environmental benefits of port spaces in terms of biodiversity, protecting species, creating new nature areas, water management, and so on, in order to better support the creation of new industrial and logistics sites from an environmental perspective.

Consequently, the environmental aspects of what we do are an important feature of the various framework documents you mentioned, such as the Natural Heritage Masterplan, the Planning and Sustainable Development Programme, and the Strategic Project for 2014-2018, to which you can add the Dredging Masterplan, the Sanitation Masterplan or the UG4 Management Plan (concerning the port’s waterfront).

This policy has led to some major practical results. They include the creation of the Saint-Georges sur l’Aa « eco-corridor », which stretches for 38 hectares, the replacement of almost 4 million cubic metres of sand on the coast to reinforce buildings, beaches, and dunes, while helping to reduce the risk of marine submersion that threatens the Dunkirk area. There has also been a change in the policy on rainwater management. In its different development zones, the port wanted to raise the level of the land to provide a buffer, which currently covers some 350 hectares, against the 100 year floods in storage and infiltration channels. Living in a polder area, we were keen to make a contribution to the delicate management of episodes of heavy rainfall which can cause flooding when water courses burst their banks. The channels created represent a certain cost in terms of marketable land, but they reflect our proactive policy aimed at developing the area in a sustainable way.

Storage and infiltration channel © AGUR

These actions are part of the strong commitment to acting responsibly. However, it was also important for us to think about the land occupied by the port’s customers. To ensure that our actions had maximum chance of success, the land leased – which will eventually account for most of the port’s land – need to be developed in a way that is consistent with our vision of sustainable, responsible development.

So we asked the Planning Agency to help us put together a set of specifications for the port’s customers to follow, highlighting the best practices to be adopted.

AIVP –  Can you tell us how the Guide was designed with the Planning Agency, and what areas it covers?

Stéphane Raison, Chairman of the Executive Board (GPMD)
The Port of Dunkirk is a partner of the Planning Agency which has real environmental, architectural and landscaping expertise. The Agency also has a comprehensive vision that encompasses the port land, the Urban Community and the Communauté de Communes des Hauts-de-France, which is the association of local authorities.

We saw the Agency as the ideal partner, and they quickly proposed to work on five key issues:
– mobility and parking;
– buildings;
– fences and enclosures;
– ecological gridding and landscaping;
– rainwater management.

After carefully examining the port’s different masterplans, the Agency produced a first series of practical measures. There were numerous discussions with the port’s different departments before consultation could begin.

A first draft of the recommendations was debated with the Urban Community and in workshops chaired by the Chairman of our Development Committee, in the presence of representatives from local authorities, government departments and non-profit organisations.

The final version was approved by our Supervisory Board in early 2018.

AIVP – For each of the five areas you just mentioned, the Guide suggests both very practical solutions and recommendations. How will you work with private sector stakeholders looking to set up in Dunkirk, or with those already present, to ensure that they actually put the measures into practice?

Stéphane Raison, Chairman of the Executive Board (GPMD)
It’s quite encouraging to see that most businesses are actually very proactive in this area. There is a real change of mentality with private stakeholders increasingly concerned with the image of their site and the well-being of their employees.

Generally speaking, they show a keen interest in the Guide and give it to their architects, asking them to take it into account at a very early stage, when the initial layout plans are being drawn up.

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For businesses already here, the Guide hasn’t yet been widely distributed. While it will likely be more difficult for them to make the necessary adjustments given that their installations are already in place, we hope they will identify which practices they can adopt quickly and cheaply.

However, most activities already have their own programmes of environmental actions, and some are already at a very advanced stage. The Guide will complement their existing approaches, and help to strengthen dialogue between the port and its occupants for concerted, harmonious development of the port area.

AIVP – The Port of Dunkirk is also committed to active dialogue with the port community and the wider public. The announcement in September of plans for a Port Center in Dunkirk is a very good illustration of this approach, and one which AIVP obviously warmly welcomes. But was there a process of communication, or even concertation, in the drafting of the Guide itself? And how will local stakeholders be included in its implementation?

Stéphane Raison, Chairman of the Executive Board (GPMD)
The Port Center is the result of close collaboration between the port and the various local stakeholders (the Urban Community of Dunkirk and the Port Museum). In fact people don’t really know or understand the port, despite the many changes going on there.

As mentioned earlier, the actions undertaken by the port are numerous, but we have noticed that communication does not necessarily keep pace with them. The Port Center will spearhead an increased communication campaign allowing everyone to take an interest in what is happening close to them.

This initiative reflects a strong commitment to allowing the local population to, in a sense, take ownership of « their » port.

The port installations represent a big opportunity for the area and the region, and the best way of promoting the economic revival needed to create jobs and wealth locally.

The Guide will benefit from this strong new pro-communication policy. It will not stay fixed in time. Whilst its creation was a collaborative effort, constant dialogue on its content can help to make it more relevant, as each stakeholder provides the benefit of their own experience.

Workshop – concertation for the Planning and Sustainable Development Programme © GPMD


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