Working with the Wadden Sea

The port of Harlingen’s location in the vicinity of the vulnerable Wadden region gives it a special position. Industry, leisure and nature go hand in hand. A wide range of agreements have been made to protect the Wadden Sea. There are agreements at regional level (Marrum Pact), national level (Nature Conservation Act), European level (Natura 2000) and world level (UNESCO World Heritage).

Working with the Wadden Sea

We as Port of Harlingen work with the Wadden Sea. This means that we are building an active seaport in harmony with the surrounding nature. We intervene in nature as little as possible. We encourage knowledge development and innovations that protect and even strengthen nature and the environment. That way, the port of Harlingen can grow sustainably, strengthen regional developments and stimulate national connections. At the same time, we contribute to the preservation and strengthening of our vulnerable and valuable environment.


Teeming with life

The Wadden Sea is a relatively shallow and warm aquatic region, with a fairly flat coast. It has tidal channels, seagrass meadows, mussel beds, sandbanks, mudflats, salt marshes, beaches and dunes. A large number of plant and animal species are found there, including marine mammals such as the common seal, the grey seal and the porpoise. It is also the breeding ground and wintering area for 10 to 12 million birds a year.


Unique ecosystem

Under the influence of the moon and the sun on the earth, the bottom of the Wadden Sea becomes dry at low tide. At high tide, it fills up again. There are two high and low water tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. The Wadden Region is one of the last remaining large-scale ecosystems to fall dry at low tide, where natural processes continue to function.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Wadden Sea has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 2009. It is the world’s largest contiguous ecosystem of sand and mudflats that fall dry during low tide. The protected area consists of a Dutch, German and Danish part (the Danish part is the largest).

Natura 2000

The Wadden Sea is also a Natura 2000 area. Natura 2000 is a European network of protected areas within the European Union. Certain animal species and their natural habitat are protected in these nature reserves. This is how biodiversity is preserved and/or restored.


Dutch Natura 2000 sites

The Netherlands has more than 160 Natura 2000 sites. All these areas are located within the Natuurnetwerk Nederland region. This is the Dutch network of existing and newly constructed nature reserves.

Less and less nitrogen

One of the objectives of Natura 2000 is to reduce nitrogen in the air. The Wadden Sea is a nitrogen-sensitive area. If the port activities are restructured or expanded, there is a chance that nitrogen will be released.

The current average concentrations of the nitrogen oxides in the Harlingen port area are well within the applicable limit values. The concentration of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in the port is expected to decrease while air quality continues to improve. This is due to ever cleaner technologies and the use of efficient and clean engines.

Port of Harlingen takes into account the available deposition space for redevelopments and new land issues in the Harlingen port area. The nitrogen deposition is recalculated for specific port developments.

Cooperation with Wadden Sea ports

Harlingen is not the only port on the Wadden Sea. The Dutch Wadden Sea ports work together to exchange best practices and to guarantee the protection of the Wadden Sea.

The Danish, German and Dutch Wadden Sea ports also work together in the collective Wadden Sea Port Initiative. They organise an annual Trilateral Wadden Seaport Conference. At this conference they invite partners and stakeholders to share best practices. This is how they increase awareness of the opportunities for economic and sustainable growth with the Wadden Sea.



Letter of Intent

The Wadden Sea ports signed a Letter of Intent during the Trilateral Wadden Seaport Conference of 2017. In this Letter of Intent the Danish, German and Dutch made agreements on how to approach the world heritage. This Letter of Intent was presented to the 13th Trilateral Wadden Sea Governmental Conference. This is a four-yearly government statement by ‘nature ministers’ (under Dutch chairmanship) from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. They look back on what has been achieved over the past four years. They also make agreements for the next four years.

The Marrum Pact

In 2018, the Wadden Sea ports and the Coalitie Wadden Natuurlijk (CWN) signed the Marrum Pact. CWN is a partnership of the Waddenvereniging, Vogelbescherming Nederland, Landschap Noord-Holland, It Fryske Gea, Stichting Het Groninger Landschap, Stichting WAD and Vereniging Natuurmonumenten. The Marrum Pact contains concrete agreements on the economic and ecological development of the Wadden Sea ports in the years to come. Port development must go hand in hand with the protection of the Wadden Sea, for example. The Marrum Pact is supported by the Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment.

EcoPorts port

Port of Harlingen is EcoPorts-certified. Ecoports is a worldwide hallmark for sustainable ports. The EcoPorts certificates are issued by European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) to ports that are in control of environmental legislation and take steps every two years to reduce the port’s impact on the environment. The ESPO assesses progress in accordance with the Port Environmental Review System (PERS).

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