Creating Coalitions for Sustainability
By Théo Fortin, International Association of Port Cities (AIVP)
For 30 years, the AIVP has been accompanying port cities towards a more resilient, concerted, and sustainable future. With close to 200 members, our association is active in 50 different countries. “Creating coalitions” is our reason for being, as AIVP was originally launched at a forum on the port-city governance of brownfields or old port’s basins. These coalitions have evolved to embrace sustainable development in a holistic way. To address this challenge, the AIVP launched in 2018 its “AIVP 2030 Agenda”, the first global initiative adapting the UN Sustainable Development Goals to the context of port cities.
If we listen to the inhabitants of port cities, we can be surprised. They are aware of some of the challenges the maritime industry is facing: decarbonization, societal responsibility, faster digitalization, better security.
Maritime shipping is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions. Current forecasts project a doubling of cargo movement by 2040. Difficult decisions lie ahead. This is where “governance” must enter, as a process whereby stakeholders with different interests coordinate around an objective that they build together.
Sustainability is an invitation to renew our port governance in several areas: representativeness, increased consultation, transparent information, open data systems, collaboration between technical expertise and citizen science, balanced land use, particularly in waterfront spaces. “Port Centers” can be a focal point to innovate in port governance and put the future of the port into debate.
Home to a wide variety of industries and logistics infrastructures, ports are also testing grounds for symbioses. Some of them are banking on the circular economy as a differentiation strategy, giving them competitive advantages. This symbiosis will only be possible with new, improved, renewed governance models which help achieving a successful energy transition.
It is clear that there is no miracle solution. Hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, electricity: these energy carriers alone will not solve our issues in port cities. Port cities need a plurality of zero-carbon fuels and a coalition of stakeholders to adopt them.
The three first energies mentioned require electrolysers. The International Energy Agency expects to see 180GW of electrolysers in use by 2030, while current global capacity is only 200MW. We are far from reaching our goal.
Electricity, if considered alone, is not a better solution. According to the CEO of Shell, around 140 000 marine wind turbines will be necessary, just for the maritime industry.
So many clean electricity sources and electrolysers will not be easy to fund, construct and exploit. The lesser energy density of alternative fuels, compared to that of fossil fuels, will also be a collective challenge. Competition was the norm. Cooperation is now imperiously urgent.
This cooperation is visible in some energy transition projects where the AIVP has been active with its members.
Our organization is part of the EU-funded project MAGPIE, for “Smart, green ports”, led by the port of Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Europe’s biggest port. MAGPIE is a coalition of 45 partners including companies, NGOs, universities and branch federations. New technologies are being developed and tested, such as: offshore charging buoy for anchored ships; electric trucking in ports; hydrogen and autonomous barge; safe ammonia bunkering for vessels. We will create a masterplan for the greening of European ports building on the finding of these tests.
AIVP has also supported river ports’ initiatives. The most recent is the Connected River project, led by the Dutch ministry of infrastructures, with crucial river institutions: port of Hamburg (Germany), port of Lille (France) or Antwerp Management School (Belgium). It aims at reconciling commercial and recreative uses of the rivers. Thanks to technological and policy innovations, it searches for new models of waterways management.
Developing countries should also be included. AIVP has initiated projects with its African port cities members. The Indian Ocean Green Port Study is carried out in 4 eastern African countries: Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles. This study’s goal is to identify priorities forming an adapted “green port roadmap” for these ports. We have made 40 recommendations which fuel the energy transition strategy of 9 eastern African ports.
In conclusion, we may change the “paradigm” of port policies, by questioning their intellectual foundations, but overall, by questioning their concrete exercise. We need to move from competition to cooperation as Prof. San Salvador del Valle said recently, not just between ports, but also between territories and complementary actors. We need pilot projects, good practices, returns on experience to prove sustainable port cities constitute a reachable and desirable future. All kinds of actors must join this very serious endeavor: NGOs, workers, unions, companies. And, mostly, the citizens themselves!
 Patrick Le Galès, 2014
 Dr Sabah Zrari, 2021
 Nicolas Mat, 2021
 AIVP’s Guide of Good Practices: “Plan the city with the port”, 2015
 Peter Hall, “Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State : The Case of Economy Policy-Making in Britain”, 1993