Source: adapted from Notteboom, T. and W. Winkelmans (2003) “Dealing with stakeholders in the port planning process”, in Dullaert, W., B. Jourquin and J. Polak (eds), Across the border: building upon a quarter of a century of transport research in the Benelux (Antwerp: De Boeck), pp. 249-265.
A port generally offers a value proposition to its region since it confers economic and social benefits. The value proposition of a port for its main stakeholders is a combination of its economic, social, and environmental value. The economic value is often expressed as the direct and indirect economic benefits of ports in terms of employment and the support of economic activities. This focuses on the competitiveness of the port in attracting and retaining traffic, which implies a commercial port.
Social value is complex to assess since it goes beyond the provision of employment and includes forms of community support that link commercial responsibility (to the shareholders) to social acceptability and accountability. A social port is viewed as a generator of employment and a source of taxation revenue for the public sector.
Since the port is at the interface between land and maritime ecosystems, it is perceived to have an environmental value. Many port-related activities and developments have significant environmental impacts such as dredging (and the disposal of dredging materials), the loss of coastal and wetlands ecosystems, air and water pollution, congestion on local roads, loss of seafront space, and light and noise externalities, as well as involvement in potential conflicts with commercial fishing and recreational uses. Under such circumstances, the port is a natural park aiming at mitigating environmental issues.
While the economic value of a port is usually well recognized, its social value can be mitigated, and its environmental value is subject to controversy. Ports are facing increasing pressures to demonstrate their value proposition beyond the economic value of a commercial port by encompassing environmental performance in order to ensure community support.