Environmentally friendly handling of fertiliser in ports

ship while handling fertilisersClick to enlarge
Bulk carrier during the fertiliser handling in the port.
Source: Nightman1965 / Adobe Stock

Handling of fertilisers in German ports can cause nutrients to enter coastal waters. This can lead to oxygen depletion in the waters and have a severe adverse effect on living organisms. During transshipment, between 0.025 and 0.00000083 per cent of fertiliser can end up in the water. Protective covers between the ship and the quay wall and cleaning of the transshipment areas can counteract this.

The aim of the study "Environmentally friendly handling techniques of fertilisers in ports" commissioned by the German Environment Agency was to examine fertiliser loading in Germany's ports with regard to possible environmentally hazardous discharges of fertilisers into water bodies, to identify the best available technology and the best available environmental practice.

The results show that relatively simple and cost-effective optimisation measures can reduce fertiliser loss during handling:

  • Trained/experienced, intrinsically motivated staff
  • Maximum distance from the water
  • Avoiding transshipment over open water, or if not, covering with a tarpaulin
  • Quay preparation (sealing of surface water drainage) and regular quay cleaning
  • Taking the weather into account

There is further potential for improvement through the use of enclosed, modern and regularly maintained handling equipment.

The results have already been presented at an international workshop with ministries/authorities, non-governmental organisations and the Baltic Sea ports. Furthermore, the report is the German contribution to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan Measure S21 (Develop and introduce best technologies, techniques and practices (BAT/BEP) to minimize nutrient losses from dry

bulk fertilizer storage and handling in ports in the Baltic Sea region by 2024). The aim is to develop a document for the Baltic Sea region on recommendations for best available technology and best environmental practice. One of the aims of implementing this measure is to reduce nutrient inputs into the highly eutrophic Baltic Sea.


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 fertiliser  North Sea  Baltic Sea  HELCOM  OSPAR