An asset of social and economic progress
Port spaces need to be rethought to remain active assets of progress. While maintaining their basic characteristics as open spaces of exchange, they need to be able to adapt to future changes in supply and demand. Therefore, their priorities need to be established with the involvement of different representative voices.
Many of the world’s most prosperous cities are coastal and port cities that have benefited from their geographical advantages by providing space for the import of products, innovations, people and ideas. Today, 205 million Europeans, 41% of the EU population, live near the sea.
Port cities are traditionally dynamic and creative places. They need to harness their innovation potential to develop new ideas and projects that protect them and other areas from rising sea levels and storms. They must also be able to reinvent themselves and rethink their economic functions and policies in order to remain hubs of prosperity and benefit from their status as open and innovative ecosystems that redefine what it means to be a port city today.
It's interesting to take a look at our models of progress. One specific project we are tackling as a society has to do with creating innovation ecosystems. How can we create spaces in a port, for example, that don't assume that our ideas about that infrastructure are stable over time, but allow for gaps where the infrastructure is constantly reinventing itself. That's why I think conversations about gaps as space for future possibilities are necessary. […] Attract people to think from different angles about what globalization means, transportation, maritime, our relationship with the rest of the world, the gateway to these global conversations, the movement of ideas, the mobility of bodies, etc., and then just creating a little internal engine that also needs external ones, where reinventing yourself as infrastructure, as a city, becomes possible.
We need to anticipate the possible economic and social changes of the future – such as the increase in local production or the possible disruption of the Arctic route – while facilitating the adaptation of infrastructures without compromising environmental and territorial assets. The immediate benefits should never outweigh the long-term costs.
The resilience of the model will be based on the ability to adapt infrastructures and their institutions in a creative and collective way. Therefore, the economic functions of infrastructures must also be democratised, involving diverse representative perspectives to ensure their services to the economy and the city.
If the port of the future is to become an asset of prosperity, it must define its economic function in a participatory way by building alliances between the different actors of the port ecosystem. This includes the inclusion of different and complementary perspectives, such as the blue economy or the circular economy. Incorporating other perspectives into the ecosystem is one way to accommodate multiple functions that enhance and bring greater benefits to the port city.
Given the particularities of our moment, with the danger of climate change, there needs to be a lot of thinking around how ports can be involved in the processes of recycling, repurposing, reusing.
Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London
These hybrid multifunctional solutions present ways to cross-subsidize the infrastructure. Because you can let the real estate piece help pay off a piece of the infrastructure. So there are many benefits, not just in terms of fitting it into the city, but also having multifunctional uses, around-the-clock activity, and being able to cross-subsidize the infrastructure.
Architect, urbanist and professor at Columbia University
- Create a culture of policy evaluation with a triple impact perspective (social, economic and environmental).
- Integrate economic and social cost-benefit analysis into planning processes.
- Evaluate alternatives from a citizen science perspective.
 Suárez-Alemán, A. (2016). Short sea shipping in today’s Europe: A critical review of maritime transport policy. Maritime economics & logistics, 18 (3), 331-351.
 Nicholls, R.J., Hanson, S., Herweijer, C., Patmore, N., Hallegatte, S., Corfee-Morlot, J., Chateau, J. and Muir-Wood, R. (2007) Rankings of the World’s Cities Most Exposed to Coastal Flooding Today and in the Future. Executive Summary, Paris: OECD, Paris.