13th World Conference Cities and Ports : Lessons from Saint-Nazaire and Nantes

Published by  11 July, 2012 9:37 am Leave your thoughts

The 13th World Conference of Cities and Ports organised In Saint-Nazaire and Nantes from 18 to 21 June 2012 assembled 450 participants coming from 46 countries.

This new World Conference of AIVP had the ambition to take bearings on the answers brought by the stakeholders of the development of port cities to their problematics of development. The angle of approach of the city-port projects chosen this time by AIVP was that of the place of the port and of its functions in the implementation of the sustainable development strategies of the port cities and regions. Globalisation, the effects of which on cities and ports were more at the centre of the reflections over the last few years, is today perfectly digested by the territories. The participants to this latest AIVP Conference are no longer questioning themselves about globalisation but revealed the emergence of new territorial strategies and of cooperation illustrated by numerous examples: energy transition and reconversion of city and port territories; new cooperation between port activities, industrial sectors, and University and research spheres; “tailor made” governances, in particular associating the citizens…

Through the exchanges of experience organised around the projects developed in the port cities of all continents, the first of the observations to be made is that the question of the city – port connection remains central nearly 25 years after the foundation of AIVP. Over and above the classic strategies of the recuperation of abandoned port spaces for urban purposes for waterfront projects, it is the whole question of city port governance which is posed. The question of the city port integration of “how to build the port with the city” is at the heart of the debates in most port cities. Urban development projects are today much more than projects for the improvement or the reconversion of the city port interfaces, they stem from an overall reflection on the identity and specificities of the contemporary port city where the integration of urban and port functions finds its full place.

This new AIVP conference enabled the measure of the local challenges to be taken. These now go well beyond urban planning strategies to directly tackle more overall notions of economic performance, of the well-being of the citizens and of sustainable development.

In this respect, the creation in numerous port cities of research centres which constitute as many “think tanks” on the problematics of local development is revealing. It testifies to the desire of the stakeholders to place innovation at the centre of the strategic reflections in order to respond to global economic but also social and environmental challenges. Politicians, port managements, and enterprises are clearly mobilising to encourage a new spirit for the port cities and regions.

The energy problematic constitutes without doubt a fairly good illustration of this phenomenon. Faced with the energy and industrial challenge represented by the programmed disappearance of fossil energies, the port cities are mobilising. The existing port infrastructures, the density of networks and the proximity of centres of industrial production and consumption make port cities privileged places for the implementation and experimentation of renewable energies connected with their marine or waterway environment and of systems of industrial ecology connected with the economic tissue. Offshore wind farms, marine current power, thermal energy of the sea or wave mechanics, even the production of hydrogen on offshore platforms are so many paths being explored or which are already the subject of industrial wagers. In thus becoming a producer of energy, the port adds to its classic functions at the service of the transport of goods a new sector and a new challenge. It also obtains a new image vis-à-vis the community and the populations.

Still in the context of this research for a new spirit for the port cities and regions, the debate is today opening around questions of multimodality and new territorial strategies. Initiatives having recourse to the waterway in order to assure proximity logistics in the big cities are multiplying and becoming economically viable as well as desirable from the environmental and urban development point of view. Through the port and its functions, the connection is thus made better between the port city and the metropolitan region.

After the time of coexistence of the first years of AIVP, then of cohabitation organised between city and port, and even beyond the sectorial cooperations which are developing today, the time is henceforth appearing for the implementation of closer partnerships, or even to the mutualisation of resources and territories; a mutualisation on the local scale between city, port and their partners but also on a regional scale.

In a context of global economic and environmental crisis the field of competition is being displaced. The port cities of a same geopolitical and economic territory are now allying to become more coherent and more competitive ensembles in the face of other regions of the world. This 13th AIVP Conference has shown that regional, national and even transnational “gateways” and “clusters” are multiplying. It is now a question of promoting, around the port functions, a regional territorial development associating several cities and several ports and capable of integrating and handling simultaneously, granting them the same degree of importance, social, economic and environmental problematics.

We have perhaps there the strongest message given by the Loire Estuary to the delegates participating in the works of AIVP: the answer to global challenges now supposes having the capacity and the intelligence to make the port cities evolve from competition to cooperation!

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