Port Priorities Aligned Around the World

Recently, I participated in a five-day conference for the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), of which Dewberry has recently become an associate member. The 29th IAPH World Ports Conference, hosted by the Hamburg Port Authority, was held in Hamburg, Germany, and attended by 950 people from public port authorities and private companies providing port-related services from around the world. Some common themes I noticed related to priorities of ports all across the globe:

  • Cross-collaboration and inter-port connectivity. This is particularly noted in the European Union (EU) where ports are more interdependent than in the U.S. The view in Europe is that ports must cooperate rather than compete.
  • Environmental and sustainability efforts are a must, not just an option. As part of social license to operate, ports must be cognizant and sensitive to impacts of operations on surrounding communities and habitats. Vessel emissions are often the greatest source of air pollution within a port area. In Hong Kong, it was noted that cargo vessels were responsible for 40-percent of air emissions. In Southern California, investments to provide plug-in (shore power) for vessels and clean truck program has reduced emissions by nearly 80-percent over the last 10 years.
  • Port efficiency improvements and "smart" operations are key to competitiveness. This includes greater use of information technology to manage cargo handling, to optimize capital investments, and to reduce friction in cargo transfer to inland modes. More efficient use of energy and other natural resources was also discussed.
  • Ports must look "beyond the gates" to function more smoothly as one part of the overall logistics/supply chain. As vessels become larger and larger, efficient throughput of cargo over the dock, through the terminal, and into the hinterlands becomes more critical to port success. This requires greater communication and collaboration with other modes and inland transportation providers.

Seaports are quite literally the world's gateways to international trade, connecting one nation to another. Organizations such as IAPH offer a valuable forum to improve economic competitiveness by sharing information, ideas, and lessons learned. For more information on the topics and trends discussed at the conference, the reports and presentations can be found on the IAPH website.

  • Rachel Vandenberg
    Rachel Vandenberg
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