West and Central African ports are growing and expanding because of economic growth and globalisation. The development brings along negative environmental impacts due to increasing shipping and port activities, which the ports are trying to address. The extent and pace of environmental progress, however, varies among the ports. International private port operators and political networks, rather than state regulation, are more helpful in the environmental progress. Ports in countries with centrist (French) colonial legacies have tensions between state regulation and the operating space for the ports, with less flexibility for adopting new environmental mechanisms and approaches. But ports in countries with decentralised (British) colonial legacies have conditions suitable for promoting environmental progress. The differences notwithstanding, the port authorities in West and Central Africa are beginning to connect among themselves and also directly with regional institutions to collaborate on common environmental solutions on a regional level. The development offers potential for moving beyond the traditional approach of the state addressing port environmental problems within national boundaries, towards regional co-operation with new roles for actors other than the state.