Sustainability and community involvement in port redevelopment



Dr Angela Carpenter, visiting researcher, University of Leeds, United Kingdom


Many ports have unused or infrequently used buildings within the port area. Ports may have concentrated their main business activities into more compact and secure areas leaving them with resources that are costing them money to maintain without any current potential to generate income. The availability of land or buildings for such redevelopment may be the result of a decline in traditional industries or, conversely, improvements in port operations through more efficient cargo handling and improved logistics chains, or where containerisation means that cargo operations are concentrated in larger ports. Where goods transit ports rapidly via improved road and rail links then there is less need for warehousing and an increase in empty buildings.

Ports need to either utilise their empty buildings and spaces to generate income, or sell them off for waterfront developments such as new housing, shopping centres, recreational facilities or  office spaces. Waterfront developments around the Grand Harbour in Valetta, Malta include the creation of a cruise ferry terminal, shopping centre and entertainment areas. In Hamburg, Germany they take the form of the HafenCity inner-city eco-development around the peripheries of the Port of Hamburg. Other major cities where redevelopment of waterfronts has taken place include Toronto and Montreal in Canada, Sydney and Adelaide in Australia, New York and Chicago in the US, Cardiff and London (docklands and Canary Wharf) in the UK, and Tokyo, Japan.

European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) activities

Waterfront redevelopment offers the potential for ports to develop sustainably and with the involvement of their local communities. In Europe for example, ESPO published a Green Guide in 2012 on how to combine effective environmental management and effective port management to both improve port practice and improve community stakeholder relations. In 2013, ESPO announced its fifth Award on Societal Integration, that award examined how ports have sought to develop in a sustainable way with the involvement of local communities. The 2013 winner was the Port of Antwerp in Belgium and, in winning the 2013 Award, the Antwerp Port Authority not only sought to protect its port heritage through the restoration of buildings and renovation of quays, but it also made port buildings available for cultural projects. Previous winners were the ports of Gijon, Spain in 2012, Helsinki, Finland (2011), Stockholm, Sweden (2010) and Genoa, Italy (2009). ESPO also, in 2010, produced a report on societal integration in ports, looking at how ports might redevelop empty buildings or unused waterfront areas in ways that go beyond the standard waterfront development to incorporate the idea of societal integration, where the local community is involved in port redevelopments and a positive relationship is formed between the port and its local community.

Potential redevelopment opportunities for ports

There are a number of possible options when a port seeks to introduce …

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