Chapter 7.4 – Port-City Relationships

Authors: Dr. Theo Notteboom, Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, and Dr. Athanasios Pallis

Ports are part of a complex urban setting as they provide important economic opportunities, such as access to global supply chains. Divergence can be observed between a port and its city, leading to conflicts over its role and function. Due to significant technological and economic changes, abandoned port areas have been subject to waterfront redevelopment.

1. Cities and Global Hubs

A. The growing role of megacities in trade

Intra-regional trade and reliance on hub cities continue to play a strong role in facilitating global trade flows. Corporations look to capitalize on new opportunities while managing their exposure in rapidly developing markets. At present, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, with two-thirds of the world population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050. Therefore, the importance of city regions will continue to grow, particularly since more than half of the cities and urban populations are within 100 km of a coastline. Population estimates and predictions indicate the strong growth of metropolitan areas around the world due to increased urbanization. A metropolitan area includes urban agglomerations and surrounding areas of lower density under the direct influence of the city.

Cities provide large efficiency benefits, which result in gains in productivity and competitiveness. Cities are the centers of knowledge, innovation, and specialization of production and services. To overcome the challenges of expanding urban structures, such as congestion and emissions, megacities focus on innovation in terms of governance models, cooperation schemes, and technological solutions, for example, in the field of urban (public) transport and logistics systems.

Global cities are generally open to trade and typically strive for high regional and international connectivity by air, sea, and other transport means such as rail or barge. This connectivity is also apparent in the advanced service sector (e.g. accountancy, advertising, banking and finance, and law) that select cities in terms of their primacy. This can strengthen the creation of first-tier global transport and communication networks that connect global megacities. Quite a few megacities have reached GDP levels comparable to small or medium-sized countries. For example, Shanghai’s GDP is equivalent to the GDP of the Philippines, while the size of Guangzhou’s economy is comparable to Switzerland’s.

The growth of cities and the connectivity and openness they offer have a significant impact on the distribution of wealth and innovation. A small group of global cities assumes a commanding role in a world where cities, not nations, are the key global players. Most of the world’s economic power is concentrated in cities, and cities have therefore become pivotal entities in the world economy. Cities are increasingly leading the way by engaging in direct action in environmental issues, digitalization, and innovation. Cities are increasingly interconnected, leading to a network of (mega)cities. Second-tier cities become more connected to the big cities and often act as economic overflow areas or satellites of the megacities or position themselves as lower-cost manufacturing centers. Surprisingly, considerations about urban development rarely focus on the role and importance of ports as gateways as opposed to the role of cities as central places.

B. Cities as maritime and logistics hubs

The rise of megacities has brought competition among cities to act as international transportation, logistics, and services hubs covering the main modes of long-distance transportation, maritime shipping, air passenger services, and air freight services. They are competing to attract the best companies and most talented people. A good example is provided when examining the leading maritime centers of the world. The maritime business services sector plays a significant role in quite a few world cities having a heavy commercial orientation. Maritime and commodity trading services are often located in large world port cities. However, due to the digitalization and financialization of trading and maritime service activities, there is no need for the trader or service provider to be near the physical flows of goods or ships. Therefore, other factors are responsible for attracting maritime services to cities.

The location of advanced maritime producer services (AMPS) is correlated with the presence of shipowners, port-related industry, and general advanced producer services, but not with the throughput flow of ports. Specialized producer services tend to agglomerate near other service providers in global cities such as London, New York, Singapore, or Hong Kong. Even non-port cities such as Madrid, Moscow, and Paris show a high concentration of AMPS firms. To a certain degree, a spatial division of labor has occurred between the concentration of advanced maritime services and the physical flows of goods and ships. Next to London, New York, Singapore, or Hong Kong, only a few port cities, such as Rotterdam, Houston, Shanghai, Dubai, and Hamburg, have successfully combined physical flows with a considerable scale in AMPS functions.

Since 2012, risk management firm DNV GL and consultancy firm Menon Economics have identified the leading maritime capitals worldwide using 25 objective and 11 subjective indicators to measure the support that different cities provide to maritime business in terms of soft and hard infrastructure in four sectors (shipping, maritime finance and law, maritime technology, and ports and logistics) and the overall attractiveness and competitiveness. The strategies of these maritime cities are not necessarily the same. For example, Singapore and Hong Kong take very different approaches to maritime center development. Singapore benefits from a dedicated governmental focus on promoting the maritime economy and the comprehensive strategy to develop a maritime cluster. Hong Kong is characterized by a laissez-faire approach and its role as a gateway to the mainland Chinese market. Maritime capitals show an impressive diversity in their level of association between the physical handling of cargoes and their association with maritime services such as shipowning, brokerage, finance, and insurance.

Many of the global megacities have developed into major air and maritime transport hubs. Some of these cities have become major hubs by combining a strategic location in relation to or between key markets with specific policies such as creating Special Economic Zones (e.g. in Shenzhen and Dubai), conferring financial and transactional advantages to an existing manufacturing and physical flow structure.

2. Port-City Interactions: Divergence

Early civilizations settled in proximity to commercial crossroads and trading places. At that time, there was a distinctive correlation between the existence/success of a port and the development of the urban area. Economic changes in the twentieth century ended with the reorganization of port activities and how they utilize the land. Given the increasing tension between the expanding city and the expanding port, some activities were relocated downstream through processes of port migration, initiating abandonment or diminution of land use intensity of waterfronts in cities. Ancient port areas were abandoned, and the link between city and port decayed. Ports usually did not pay much attention to activities concerning reclaiming neglected areas, but left them to deteriorate or rented them to industries from sectors unrelated to the main domain of port business.

Many cities worldwide have built an intricate relationship with their port since they owe their origin to their port site. Conventionally, the economic dynamism of cities was linked to their port, which was a source of employment and commercial interactions with the global market. The waterfront still occupies valuable space in proximity to urban activities, which can be a source of dynamism, but also conflict. Land and water use along the waterfront, which is a valuable interface zone, requires cooperation between the port and the city so that social and environmental externalities are mitigated. In recent decades, the prevailing trend has been a growing level of divergence between ports and their host cities, particularly because of globalization and containerization. The main factors that have favored a port-city divergence are:

  • The migration of several terminals towards peripheral locations. The need for additional space and deeper drafts has encouraged terminal operators to seek new sites that are located further away from conventional sites.
  • The containerization of terminals has reduced labor requirements since a modern container terminal is capital-intensive and requires a small quantity of qualified labor to operate. Port terminals thus employ far fewer people than before, reducing a whole array of port/city interactions, such as commuting.
  • Safety and security issues have become more salient, so that access to port areas, particularly terminals, is restricted. Ports and harbors are gated and protected areas that the public cannot readily access, particularly in container terminals.
  • Modern ship operations require less labor, and labor sourcing has been internationalized, from managers to ship crews. Under the regime of flags of convenience, ship labor is mostly multinational and, therefore, not linked to the communities along the ports of call. Further, containerships spend little time in ports, often less than 24 hours, considerably reducing shore leave opportunities.
  • Hinterland accessibility has improved, implying that the majority of economic activities using the port are located further inland and much less, as was conventionally the case, in close proximity to port terminals. There is a dissociation between port-related industrial and manufacturing employment.

The outcome is that ports are increasingly economically integrated entities with global supply chains and are environmentally disruptive to and disconnected from their urban areas. As such, ports are feeling a pressure to get a social license to operate in order to secure trust and support from communities when involved in expansion projects. However, the same processes that have promoted a divergence between ports and their cities have created opportunities to redevelop older port areas that became abandoned or underused.

3. Waterfront Redevelopment

A. Waterfront redevelopment as a form of new urbanism

Given the relocation of port-related activities, the outskirts of port cities often become derelict areas where urban restructuring occurs. Such revitalization of urban areas is called waterfront redevelopment.

The concept of waterfront redevelopment is related to waterfront sites, but is not only limited to those in port cities. Historically, the first waterfront redevelopment projects date from the 1960s when cities like Boston, Baltimore, and San Francisco set the trend. At that time, the idea of waterfront revitalization was based on public access to riverbanks by creating parks and markets. In the middle of the 1970s, attempts at creating new urban activities and multifunctional projects emerged, including residential, commercial, and cultural projects. Since the end of the 1970s, many cities have intensified activities directed toward the functional revitalization of waterfront areas, the rehabilitation of physical waterfront structures, and the creation of new architectural and urban values on the border between water and land. Nowadays, this concept is known all over the world, even in developing economies.

Many cities are undergoing a major redevelopment of older derelict waterfront areas, intending to turn them into commercial, cultural, tourist, or upscale residential areas. Cities are using waterfront redevelopment to revitalize urban areas and bolster local economies with new jobs, better housing, improved community amenities, and added tourism opportunities. The redevelopment of the waterfront has also become an opportunity to rekindle relationships between the city and the port. In some cases, waterfront redevelopment is largely an aesthetic undertaking where the extent to which the projects can revitalize urban areas remains unproven. However, even then, they represent a shift from industrial to post-industrial land use.

Most cities have understood that the industrial heritage of the port is something that should be reinforced rather than eradicated. As such, they have capitalized on their industrial past to create interesting and inviting waterfronts, reflecting that most people want to see a real working city and not a sanitized landscape stripped of all historical references. Industrial, recreational, commercial, and residential land uses can and do successfully coexist, often with great effect. In fact, their coexistence has proven to be a crucial element in dozens of projects around the world.

Many projects follow the rules of new urbanism, which seeks to redefine the nature of metropolitan areas by reintroducing traditional notions of neighborhood design and fitting those ideas into a variety of urban and suburban settings. Some new urbanism principles include walkable neighborhoods, primary orientation to public transit systems, preservation of open space and greenways, and the greater integration of different types of land uses at the neighborhood level. As such, waterfront redevelopment is one of the most visible manifestations of a growing appreciation of urban values, which has its roots in specific social, environmental, and cultural factors that have come to the fore in recent decades. These may include environmental concerns, interest in historic preservation, community activism, and changing social values. However, it is clear that waterfront redevelopment should also have the potential to improve the existing economic base of the community and, at a minimum, must not jeopardize this base. In short, successful waterfront redevelopment projects will integrate economic, societal, and environmental objectives and achieve sustainability.

B. Waterfront redevelopment and expanding port activities

Changes in maritime transport and the spatial dimensions of port infrastructures significantly influenced the port-city interface. Whereas the port was formerly known as an area handling commodities, the modern port has evolved into a horizontal cross-section of different supply chains. Because of these trends, the port-city interface has evolved. Whereas the port city is expanding in terms of area occupation, port authorities are driven by the changes in the maritime industry. The maritime industry is looking for available land to meet the expectations of its customers, in this case, terminal operators and shipping companies, and to cope with the shift from a conventional to a modern transport system.

The generic model of port and city extensions demonstrates how the growth of the city combined with a retreat of port activities to downstream sites increases the pressure on abandoned port areas to shift the focus to commercial and housing functions. The tensions between city and port are often based on the relative intrinsic land values of areas situated on the border regions between cities and ports. The evolutionary model describes how the pressure on the city borders and the need for port renovation schemes (due to the limited availability of port extension areas) leads to increased tension between city and port. The outcome will depend on the room given to port activities to expand further downstream or along the coastline:

  • If ample space is available, waterfront revitalization schemes are likely to accommodate different functions that are not really entwined with deep seaport activities, such as new residences, offices, retail facilities, parks, cultural and leisure activities, public spaces, pedestrian routes, transportation systems, marinas, and sporting and recreational areas. In many cases, these functions are fuelled not by ports but by real estate and development corporations that have taken over areas abandoned by ports. They can be ubiquitous and might have little to do with the specificity of the place or maritime culture that would make them unique and sustainable attributes of a city. The main contribution of these non-port-related commercial and residential zones in the redeveloped waterfront area is to relieve some pressure on the city.
  • If the port has only limited expansion possibilities, a competitive situation will emerge in relation to the waterfront area between port functions and other functions. In that case, a mixed-use scenario for waterfront redevelopment is the most likely outcome, thereby leaving the port with some room to rehabilitate older port areas to form integral parts of the wider port complex.

C. Waterfront redevelopment as part of stakeholder relations management

Waterfronts often represent a good opportunity for community enhancement and enrichment. But at the same time, waterfront redevelopment can be one of the most highly contested aspects of the city and even of port planning. Waterfronts are often the most valuable resource of a city, with many people feeling they are stakeholders; the residents want a beautiful view of marine resources and the port industry, and everyone wants their interests protected. While changes in the waterfront are hard to implement, rebuilding is essential as waterfronts are often the first part of a port city built and are in the greatest state of disrepair or abandonment.

Most waterfront redevelopment is challenged by city-port relationships that are stimulated by growth. The most common points of conflict and contact are port growth, industrial growth, land-use competition, and water-use competition. This comes from a general desire to keep businesses near their markets and customers, keep the waterfront intact, and create an aesthetically pleasing environment, which is often done through creating corporatist relationships with private owners.

As derelict port areas are situated at the port-city interface, the renewed waterfront attracts economic activities because of its proximity to the city center and, at times, because of the sense of exclusivity associated with a waterfront location. The redevelopment of the London docklands is one of the best-known examples of the attractiveness of a waterfront location in a central high-density area with a scarcity of real estate. The attractiveness is significantly related to the importance of the city in the global urban system and the availability of real estate in relation to demand. When evaluating a waterfront redevelopment proposal, a fundamental question arises. Is the project good for the port, and is it beneficial for the city? The final decision of whether or not to develop a derelict port area will be based on evaluating three elements: physical, economic, and social advantages.

The planning of waterfront redevelopment is usually based upon high-level strategic plans with little details concerning the choice of solutions that enable flexibility in adapting to local market conditions. Usually, the project includes strategic guidelines for redevelopment or a set of simple objectives. Local governments usually act as initiators and enter into partnerships with the private sector. Sometimes, elaborating a strategy, management, and finance is given to specially established institutions or development companies. These institutions have flexibility in interpreting planning regulations, which allows for a quick response to market impulses. Moving from a conceptual design to implementation can be a complicated task, especially when communities have limited resources. Creating an open implementation program can ensure the ongoing input and involvement of key stakeholders. Nevertheless, orchestrating such an interactive process can be complex and time-consuming, and can lead to conflicts with stakeholders. Task forces are often created to keep stakeholders informed and engaged during the development of detailed master plans. With public, private, and government interests, waterfront redevelopment projects often take decades, undergoing many changes in elected officials and public committee members.

The key to the port-city reconnection lies in sustainable port development based on dialogue, partnership, and cooperation with stakeholders such as community groups. The public needs to understand better the requirements and risks of port development and extension. Many port cities have adopted a new approach towards open, accountable, and transparent negotiation and decision-making mechanisms. Sustainable port development schemes do not follow a top-down approach but rely on interactive dynamic processes for building partnerships with the public. Sustainability allows port managers and city developers to work with relevant stakeholders to create a common vision for the port and the city. This creates a sense of ownership and responsibility among the inhabitants of a port city.

Waterfront design can be a successful forum for initiating community dialog about broader port development plans. Community groups can have a large impact on port city development programs. Access to and redevelopment of the waterfront is rarely understood in terms of a working waterfront with maritime and port activities. For residents, the perceived negative results of waterfront redevelopment are increased traffic, inadequate parking, lack of privacy, commercial intrusion into residential areas, lack of affordable housing, marine pollution, and non-water dependent uses in the immediate waterfront. In most cases, these negative aspects are counteracted by increased property values, historic preservation, and more public events and amenities. One of the contradictions brought about by renewal is that while property value may increase to benefit some people, most residents cannot afford to live in these areas anymore. In contrast to residents, the broader local community typically perceives waterfront redevelopment as a positive action enhancing local quality of life.

In some cases, waterfront redevelopment can be used as compensation for getting public support for port expansion schemes. These projects can help to activate public acceptance and awareness of seaport activity. Port authorities should take such opportunities to form a sound basis for dialog with community stakeholders, resulting in goodwill and mutual respect. They might even generate more local economic benefit than the renovation of outdated port infrastructure because draft conditions and terminal surfaces of older quays and docks are often too small to allow for modern transshipment activities.

Convincing residents of the benefits of waterfront redevelopment and its possible link to port activity is often not an easy task. When people understand the vision, buy into it, and recognize how it can be used to leverage resources, they are willing to participate in the whole process. Many questions are put to the community to gather views on how a waterfront could be redeveloped, and people have a wide range of views. The challenge is to distill from those views the essence that can help to form the guiding principles for the core group of planners to understand and follow.

Ports and industrial waterfronts face complex problems associated with environmental contamination and habitat loss that affect the ability of local governments to plan and carry out dredging and waterfront development projects. In many parts of the world, separate regulatory programs exist to address source control, the cleanup of contaminated sediments, navigational dredging projects, habitat restoration, and shoreline development projects, each with its own set of agencies, permits, and regulatory requirements. In some areas, these overlapping and often conflicting requirements and interests have led to difficulties in completing waterfront redevelopment and clean-up projects, even when these projects could have substantial environmental benefits. So-called greenway projects are important elements of any waterfront redevelopment scheme because they attract people to the shoreline and give them first-hand experience. Such first-hand experience is essential in building support for further source control efforts, brownfield redevelopment, contaminated sediment remediation, pollution prevention, and habitat rehabilitation and conservation.

4. Port-City Interactions: Sustainable Cruise Growth

The aspirations of many ports to host more cruise activities are combined with the strategic importance of improving port-city relationships. To a great extent, this combination is founded on the remarkable growth already achieved. The gigantism of cruise ships and the multiplication of cruise itineraries implies an increased number of passengers arriving at a destination for each port call, posing significant challenges for cruise ports and the destinations hosting them. The contemporary cruise segment, representing more than 75% of cruises, is offered by vessels exceeding 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew. This implies mass arrivals at destinations, overcrowding, congestion, massive operations, considerable footprint, and the need to cater to the receipt of quantities of waste.

Justifiably or not, local communities have started questioning the unqualified growth of cruising, which had previously long been taken as a beneficial development. While the benefits, in terms of spending at destinations, are significant, this growth might be associated with congestion and several related externalities to be addressed. Many cruise ports are located in or very close to urban areas. This makes them exciting cruise destinations for tourists wanting to discover their amenities and cultural heritage. It also increases the pressure on ports to minimize tensions with the host cities.

Nonetheless, not all port cities are struggling with the same issues regarding cruise tourism. For those that struggle with classification, tensions emerge when receiving significant numbers of tourists per year compared to the port-city populations. The challenges to be addressed relate to three elements:

  • Society. Adherence to social perceptions and work with local communities to reverse misconceptions regarding the impact of cruise activities.
  • Economy. Expanding in line with local economic development strategies and providing a level of economic multiplying effects.
  • Environment. Addressing the externalities produced by providing cruise shipping and the hosting of vessels and cruise passengers at cruise ports.

A critical factor in supporting sustainable cruising is understanding different stakeholder concerns, needs, and expectations. Constructive dialogs, partnerships, synergies, and joint research and development initiatives, are instruments towards this end. International initiatives having an explicit reference to cruising can also facilitate strategies to advance green cruise port governance.

A. Reversing social perceptions

The expansion of cruise activities has impacted the image of cruising. The elite activity of a small number of passengers has been replaced by the mass transportation of thousands of cruise passengers arriving simultaneously. The decision of a community to seek cruise ship visits requires several industries to be involved and has direct and indirect consequences. Besides, a cruise is not dissimilar from the impacts generated by any other tourism development on the visited communities and sites. It might displace current activities, causing changes in costs, access, and variety. These changes can be positive or negative, such as crowded areas near ports, generating additional infrastructure investment to cater to the cruise industry, but not so much for local residents. From a service and real estate standpoint, locals can be priced out of areas near cruise ports. Changes may be viewed as positive by those who benefit and negative by those who do not benefit. All this can lead to societal approaches that conceive of cruise growth as associated with deterioration of the quality of life.

Aesthetics have turned into a significant issue, as did overcrowding of marquee destinations. Venice is one of the most salient cases of a marquee destination that has experienced the negative effect of mass cruising. A ban on large cruise ships passing through the center of Venice was imposed in late 2014, preventing all ships over 96,000 gross tons from sailing to the main cruise terminal and limiting the number of ships doing so to five per day. The debate on this had gained momentum as citizens, and local protest groups were unhappy with the presence of the bigger vessels, arguing that they produce pollution and result in substantial levels of emissions. As a world heritage site, Venice is particularly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of air pollution in addition to the tide effects on the sinking lagoon surrounding the city. The image of giant vessels next to traditional buildings led to a heated reaction by local communities. Aesthetics has come to play, and cruise liners had to limit the number of big ships calling at Venice and are now considering a complete ban from docking at the port facilities located at the city center.

Other marquee destinations, including Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Santorini, and the French Riviera, have experienced similar issues. The port authority of Barcelona had to substantiate the benefits of cruising using several studies to justify its cruise operations. Dubrovnik decided to limit the number of arriving tourists to a maximum of 8,000 per day at the historic city, and Santorini put the same threshold (8,000) on cruise passengers arrivals. French Riviera ports limit the arrivals to 5,000 cruise passengers per day.

Whether these challenges are well-founded or not, there are conceptions and perceptions that have to be addressed to achieve sustainable growth. Cruising is inextricably linked with the carrying capacity of the hosting city, such as the ability of the destination to absorb tourism before negative impacts are felt. Exceeding the carrying capacity can cause unacceptable changes to the physical environment, or negatively affect the experience of visitors. The need for cruising to take into account the needs of civil societies that host them is essential due to the periodic overcrowding of cultural sites and historic cities, the limited carrying capacity of certain well-established destinations, the endemic problems of local tourism economies, the dominance of foreign firms enjoying the majority of spending benefits, and the consequent altering of local population perceptions. Estimating carrying capacity in terms of how many cruise passengers can be hosted or how many are wanted raises questions associated with several parameters, such as who decides management objectives, and what exactly are the attributes and capabilities of the destination.

B. Expanding in line with local strategies

Securing most of the potential local gains by expanding cruise activities requires a consensus on how this might be achieved while also integrating with local economic development strategies. Destinations and cruise ports have limited spaces and options for developing the different activities they wish to promote. There are frequently space restrictions, either at the city, at its waterfront, or at the port. Antagonism between actors and industries wanting to maintain or increase the space they use is not rare.

The development of cruise activities or cruise terminals might be associated with access restrictions to the waterfront. The growth of the industry is based on the modernization of existing infrastructures, but also on the presence of new facilities and the spatial expansion of the terminals and cruise-related activities. However, waterfront development is appreciated in many cases as preserving alternative uses and the traditions of the cities. Given this appreciation, objections to developing tourist activities or related infrastructures (parking slots, restricted access zones) are not rare. The principles to be adopted and the parameters to be examined should secure a balanced approach.

The same is true for port development. The limitations of a port zone imply the necessity of choices regarding a wide spectrum of activities that could be developed. As multi-purpose terminals are less viable for cruise activity development, cruise-sustaining growth results in potential interference with other maritime transport markets. Cargo ports also seek to expand spatially and functionally to improve their supply chain integration. Stakeholders involved in these markets would like to see the biggest parts of the port devoted to their activities rather than to the expansion of cruising. Balanced port planning needs to take into account the contradictory potentials of different segments’ development.

Cruise terminal site location raises issues concerning the site and how it should be planned, which cannot be decided separately from the broader destination or regional planning framework. When several potential port sites are available, broader goals may include spreading tourism to new areas, strengthening infrastructure, creating tourism routes, and investing in essential facilities. Plans for other sector development and other forms of tourism create cumulative effects. The forms of involvement of stakeholders in location choice and, when essential, spatial and traffic planning are increasingly important.

Port planning and the hosting of cruise activities do not end at the terminal gate. Passenger transfer from the terminal to the city and transportation related to shore excursions are part of the process. Efficient location choices are conditioned by the efficiency of private or public transport strategies, such as services provided to the terminal. Consideration must also be given to avoiding interference with urban road traffic when a cruise ship arrives or departs. Location choices are also linked with the capacity of several tourism-related industries to connect and also to the urban tourism strategies that tourism organizations and other relevant decision-makers have in place.

Resolving most of the problems demands more than an agreement on some technical issues, such as berth allocation. It also incites the development of two types of coordination. The first is the coordination between cruise ports and cruise lines to synchronize the system at the port and the operations taking place at the port terminal. The second is the coordination of tourist destinations, including local public authorities, museums, retailers, and, most importantly, transport service providers (coaches, buses, taxis) and travel-related industries, to create seamless embarkation disembarkation processes and passenger flow at the destination. Even port arrangements such as berth planning cannot be efficiently implemented if there are no means to involve other actors at the destination in order to orchestrate the entire cruise supply chain.

C. Sustaining an international agenda

Common problems that cruise lines, cruise ports, and hosting destinations need to tackle, the international dimension of several sustainability issues, and the ongoing globalization of cruising, underline that efficient and effective strategies might develop at broader international levels rather than relying on local efforts. While sustainability issues are generally of local concern, an international cruise-related agenda would help advance meaningful proposals and minimize concerns about a level playing field. Besides, with local conditions and principles of engagement in cruise differing, an international agenda acts as a facilitator for stakeholders to develop a shared understanding, benchmark existing practices, promote specific solutions, and define actions.

Economic-related challenges refer to the endorsement of best practices rather than the necessity, or the potential, of regulatory intervention. Thus, meeting challenges at the international level does not necessarily imply the endorsement of economic and environmental regulatory initiatives. Nor does it mean the absence of any such initiatives. Distinct approaches might be endorsed in an attempt to address each of these challenges separately.

Besides, the requirements and the maturity of cruise markets in different regions of the world are diverse. Destinations, waterfronts, and social acceptability of cruise growth are rarely similar. Seasonality results in some ports and destinations hosting cruises for only a few months, compared to those serving year-round cruises. Technical characteristics and the various hosting capacities of goals and the size of port-cities, such as European cruise port cities being remarkably smaller than their North American counterparts, underline a lack of uniformity. At the same time, they generate opportunities for sharing successful practices. Variations in distances between cruise ports in a given region, and the types of competition that these distances promote, might result in variations in stakeholder strategies. Destinations have their dynamics, and cruise ports are diverse in many respects. Since each port is unique, legislation and incentives for developing cruise activities also differ, making similar practices and policies even more difficult to implement.

Stakeholders seek to enact practices satisfying economic demands and to reduce costs and risks to support sustainable development in compliance with legislation. The scope for international exchanges and resolutions is revealed by interest representation and observed associability. In 2013, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) integrated regional branches to represent common interests. Ports in the Caribbean have also formed their regional association. In contrast, cruise ports in northern and southern Europe are organized in respective associations (i.e., MedCruise, Cruise Europe, Cruise Baltic) and collaborate at the pan-European level. The goal is to combine the growth of cruise activities with social responsibility and environmentally friendly strategies. European institutions have also expressed an interest in encouraging stakeholder involvement in promoting an integrated approach between cruise shipping, ports, and coastal tourism stakeholders in the decision-making process.

5. Port-City Interactions: Sustainability

The sustainability theme is high on the agenda in shaping the future relations between cities and ports. In 2018, the International Association of Cities and Ports (AIVP – Association Internationale des Villes et Ports) started to develop a 2030 Agenda covering ten goals to be achieved by 2030. These ten goals specifically focus on port-city relations and are closely aligned with the broadly-used 17 Sustainable Development Goals presented in 2015. The AIVP Agenda 2030 thus translates the global governance SDGs into the context of port cities, helping port and urban stakeholders to prepare projects and plans that contribute to sustainable development and port-city relationships.

Related Topics


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