Ing. Mark Sultana, Manager at the Malta Freeport, discusses with OUTLOOK the process involved in the submission of the environmental operating permit, as well as the benefits that can be enjoyed once all criteria are fulfilled.
Malta Freeport, a major maritime transshipment centre, started working towards acquiring an environmental operating permit way back in August 2009, following a stipulated condition which was included in a permit for development. As part of the environmental permit process, MEPA initiated a series of meetings with the Malta Freeport Terminals Corporation, the Birzebbugia Local Council as well as the Birzebbugia Environment Action Committee.
"The process started with a series of meetings at our premises," Ing. Mark Sultana explains. "The purpose of these meetings was to provide MEPA with a better insight into the operations of the Terminal. The meetings also gave us further insight into the operating permit application process."
Furthermore, to ensure that all major environmental issues were tackled, Transport Malta was also present for the meetings in order to provide their input on certain issues such as ballast management and dredging operations.
The environmental permit was drafted with the aim of controlling all major environmental issues. In fact, in order to complete the application, the Malta Freeport had to collate and put together a large amount of information. "This included a description of the main activities carried out on site and their management, the storage and use of raw material, details on waste management, discharge of effluents and emissions in to the atmosphere as well as other aspects that could have an impact on the environment," Ing. Sultana says, adding that "copies of the company's operating procedures covering quality, safety and the environment were also submitted with the application."
To keep the implications of the permitting process abreast, training for staff played a key role. "It is in the company's policy that every induction and refresher training programme includes a module on the environment," Ing Sultana affirms. "During training we explain the company's key environmental performance indicators and also how workers can contribute towards minimizing the impact of operations on the environment. Furthermore, presentations on environmental progress are displayed in areas frequented by workers."
With the permitting process well underway, Ing. Sultana believes that it will provide a framework within which environmental objectives and initiatives will be established, planned and implemented. It is also in line with the company's policy of continuous improvement. Furthermore, a monitoring committee has also been set up since the start of the permitting process. "The committee is made up of representatives from the company and the local council; and presently being chaired by MEPA. This committee meets to monitor the progress being made with regards to permit conditions and discuss environmental issues," he adds.
The Malta Freeport enjoys a superior performance primarily because they have made considerable investment in modern, efficient and greener equipment. "The environment has always formed an integral part of the company's policies and procedures," Ing. Sultana states. “When purchasing equipment or materials, specifications must meet relevant environmental legislation requirements or guidelines. In fact, in the last six years, the company has registered a continuous steady decrease in its carbon footprint per container handled," he concludes.
Now that the environmental permit has been drafted by MEPA, it has been passed on to all stakeholders involved for their feedback.