Irina Olkhovskaya: “Economy and ecology cannot be separated”

Irina Olkhovskaya, Deputy Director of Port Management Company LLC tells IAA PortNews about the environmental policy of Russia’s largest coal holding.


Environmental campaigns arranged by some companies are often like PR events:  flash mobs to support birds, animals of fish are organized with industrial smoke in the background. In this context, special appreciation is deserved by prudent companies with long-term environmental programmes comprising a range of environmental activities, prearranged and approved by the regional authorities.

– Ms Olkhovskaya, sea coal terminals of Russia continue building up their capacity. Does this mean more coal dust for the coastal environment or can you say that the downside of the stevedoring business is controllable?

– You are right. A consistent growth of coal exports has been seen in Russia for several years amid the growing capacity of coal transshipment facilities. Meanwhile, coal cargo is no easy to handle when it comes to comprehensive environmental control. Owners of coal terminals should apply only special coal handling technologies and ensure a full range of environmental activities and nature protection measures for minimization of industrial impact on the coastal environment. Besides, it is important to actively engage municipal authorities in the regions where coal terminals are located.

Port Management Company and two terminals under our management – Rosterminalugol JSC in the Leningrad Region and Vostochny Port JSC in the Primorsky Territory – are consistently implementing the full range of environmental activities complying with international standards. Moreover, we think it necessary to ensure a systematic interaction with municipal authorities since coal terminals are not just industrial facilities but also principal employers and socially oriented enterprises responsible for the citizens.

– Have you succeeded to intensify interaction with local authorities?

– Yes. We have succeeded in environmental cooperation between our stevedoring companies and the Administrations of the Kingisepp Municipal District (Leningrad Region) and the Nakhodka Muicipality (Primorsky Territory). On the threshold of the year of 2017, declared as the Year of Ecology in Russia, two long-term agreements with the mentioned authorities have been signed with the assistance of Port Management Company. The agreements cover environmental issues of the coal transshipment.

– What are these documents about?

– Together with the municipalities we have developed a 5-year programme providing for environmental monitoring, IT developments and environment education of the area residents. The main thing is our undertaking to apply at the terminals of Port Management Company the international innovations related to environmental safety, to comply with the environmental regulations of Russia and international standards, to perform landscaping. We have a detailed plan of activities and we will certainly implement it in full.

– Port Management Company used to tell the industrial community about its achievements related to environment before. What has been done at the terminals in 2016?

– Ecology has always been a priority of Port Management Company LLC. Compliance with high standards of environmental safety is a key principle of both terminals under our management. We are sure that economy and ecology cannot be separated while our services should not harm people or environment.

The technologies are developing and we always strive to be the first in introduction of the most advanced global experience in coal ports environment protection at our terminals.

This year, Rosterminalugol has allocated about RUB 80 bln for implementation of its environmental programme. Regular monitoring of environment has been arranged. Every month Rosterminalugol is holding laboratory analysis of air, noise, waste and surface water parameters of operational, sanitary protection and residential areas. The results confirm environmental safety of the coal terminal.

Among the key aspects of the environmental policy of Rosterminalugol is the environmental education of its personnel to up-date their skills. The employees regularly attend qualification upgrading courses, participate in environment-related conferences and seminars. In August 2016 representatives of the company took part in ecological activity on collection of litter along the coast of the Luga Bay in the Gulf of Finland. Annual activities are held to plant trees in Kingisepp and in the surroundings.

Few words about our company in the Far East. The priority of Vostochny Port is the completion of the coal terminal’s Phase 3 in 2017. Environmental activities should be correlated, both in the territory of the existing terminal and at the facilities under construction.

Over the 10-month period, Vostochny Port JSC registered a consistent improvement of environmental performance. The obligatory environmental monitoring has confirmed the efficiency of the company’s nature protection activities. In-house department of Vostochny Port is performing a regular environmental monitoring with a key target to improve the company’s environment control system. Specialists monitor the air and water area parameters.

Vostochny Port JSC annually invests into innovations and upgrading of the terminal’s treatment facilities, aspiration and irrigation systems. The terminal numbers 21 units for air purification and 7 waste water treatment units with multilevel filtration system ensuring the quality level of fishery waters.

Vostochny Port is engaged in repopulation of different species in the Bay of Vrangel where the terminal is located. Our consistent work on recovery of biological resources includes agreements with several fish farms on hatchery of different species. These activities cost millions of rubles per year but environment protection is among the key aspects of any socially responsible company.

We are especially proud of our annual Ecomarathon for the residents of Vrangel settlement and the Primorsky Territory. The event arranged for the second year in a row was held from February through September with the support of Vostochny Port. Environmental quests, visits to protected environmental zones, promotion of separate waste collection, volunteer clean-up at the local beaches and planting of trees were arranged for the participants.

– You mention commitment to the cutting-edge global technologies in coal transshipment. What is your opinion about closed transshipment facilities for coal shipments? 

– Pros and consideration of closed coal terminals are widely discussed in the world today. There is an attempt to describe them as the only environmentally friendly solution. I cannot squarely support this position. We believe that environmental protection of cargo handling is necessary. Measures undertaken at dedicated coal terminals of Port Management Company LLC are necessary and sufficient for proper coal transshipment.

Closed terminal is an understudied project as coal can catch fire amid restriction of air flow. So this is less safe as compared with open coal transshipment provided that all environmental requirements are met.

Throughout the existence of Rosterminalugol and Vostochny Port, with regular modernization of their equipment, we succeeded in ensuring comprehensive protection of the environment when handling coal cargo. This definitely confirms the validity of our project solution.