Port cities, the challenges of tomorrow

Published by  13 August, 2012 8:00 am Leave your thoughts

Interview : Henk de Bruijn, Director Corporate Strategy, Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands

(13th World Conference Cities and Ports – 20/06/2012)*

Henk de BruijnAIVP : The port of Rotterdam has recently presented its new long term vision: Port Vision 2030. What do you think are the main questions to be solved to be a successful port of the future ?

H. De Bruijn : The port of Rotterdam has set two main strategic goals for the coming decades: to become the Global Hub & Europe’s Industrial Cluster. In order to reach our goals, we see some major issues. Here, I would like to mention the need to reduce the environmental nuisance experienced by citizens living close to the port and realize a transition of the industry in the port. Related to that, the port-city relation is vital. And the major challenge lies in innovation. I believe that the port that is able to create, test and implement smart solutions to these main issues will be a successful port in the future. “Tested in Rotterdam, sold to the world” will be our motto for the coming years.

AIVP : You mention the reduction of environmental nuisance as one of the main questions to be solved in the coming decades. How do you see the role of the citizens that live in the surrounding areas of the port ?

H. De Bruijn : I would like to stress that this is a very ambitious goal that requires significant investments of the port and industrial companies. It will be a hug effort in itself to realize reduce noise and air emissions simultaneously with increasing the production capacity in the port. This asks for a lot of investments and innovation of port companies. Fortunately, port companies realize the importance of a high quality living environment. However, there is –as always- a trade off. Local communities and people living in the surrounding areas must realize that building new houses close the port can no longer happen. Locations next to the waterfront are often attractive locations for municipalities and property developers to create houses, also from a financial perspective. But this will only lead to an increase in nuisance and financial benefits are only short term. Instead, it is much better to look at alternative ways to develop these bordering areas of the port. For instance as recreational or natural areas. This asks a joint effort of the many municipalities surrounding the port, which is a real challenge.

AIVP : And how about the relation with the city, as you now primarily mention the relation with the whole region ?

H. De Bruijn : The city of Rotterdam is of vital importance to the long term success of the port. The key is to make its slogan ‘World Port City’ come true. To do so, the port must be much more visible within the heart of the city. This is especially important to familiarize young people with the port, since they are the well educated workforce of the future the port so desperately needs. There are several initiatives we are already taking, together with the city. First of all, every year the World Port Festival is organised in the first weekend of September. This festival attracts over 400.000 visitors and showcases the martime- and port industry to the public. We are also cooperating with schools, to educate children via a tailor made programme and guest lectures. We are now looking at more physical and structural ways to show the port. We are setting up the World Port Programme, together with the municipality of Rotterdam. This will be an investment programme of Port and City and will consist of items  that shows live images of the port, the redevelopment of waterfront locations into leisure areas, sport and leisure activities in port areas and many other initiatives.

AIVP : All the goals you mention, as well as the many other goals of the Port Vision 2030 all sound very ambitious. How do you make sure you will realize them ?

H. De Bruijn : The key lies in innovation. In order to realise the vision, innovations and their large-scale implementation are vital. Some initiatives that are worth mentioning. We are creating a world class centre of Port knowledge. We cooperate with the universities of Delft and Rotterdam in the Smart Port and Port Research Centre initiatives. Both universities have dedicated port chairs and perform dedicated port research. Secondly, we cooperate with Deltalinqs, the association of port entrepreneurs, in the port and industrial innovation council. Third, we have created locations for dedicated to nurture start-up companies. PlantOne is an example of a facility where start-ups in the process industry can test and scale up their business, on a “plug-and-play” basis. Fourth, we are setting up a venture fund so young, innovative entrepreneurs have more easy access to financial means.

In conclusion, it is vital to stimulate a dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in the port. And as always, stimulating innovation starts with people.

(*) www.citiesandports2012.com

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