Interview with Carla Jong, Port of Amsterdam
Carla Jong is Port City manager at the Port of Amsterdam. This meeting reconfirms the importance of a comprehensive and shared long term vision of port-city development projects.
AIVP : Carla, it seems that the battle for space is an important issue for the Port of Amsterdam. How can you deal with an extensive throughput of 100 MT of goods which places you as the 4th Port in Europe? Does the development and planning process of the port areas, close to the city, demand a lot of time, dialogue and compromises ?
Carla Jong : Despite the economic crisis, the City of Amsterdam has an important need for new housing and residences. Amsterdam is a compact city, where almost all the space is built, so the municipality has no other choice than to develop high densely residences and buildings, either on new land, on the waterfront of the river IJ bank or by seeking new spaces available in the city. This last solution includes the Port city area, in the Western IJ banks, with port areas operated under concession agreements such as the Coen Vlothaven and the Minervahaven, which currently consists of a buffer zone, next to 2200 dwellings.
There we have vital and intensive port activities which cause dust, odors and noise which cannot be mixed easily with urban residential areas. Also, through a mediation process, where the Port Authority played an important role, the existing port companies and the City of Amsterdam agreed on maintaining the port activities operational until at least 2029. This is part of the “Covenant agreement”. During this period, no new urban projects can be initiated. Of course this deadline acts as a disincentive to long-term development that is often necessary for remaining competitive in the port sector and for discouraging investors. The Port Authority has to find innovative solutions to reorganize existing areas in order to get them more productive and efficient, but there is no miracle… we have to find new development zones to expand. This is no longer possible than outside of Amsterdam on territories belonging to other smaller municipalities who see the arrival of the port as a risk or threat. Again we will be entering a period of negotiation and discussion which would result in long term planning for the whole metropolis region.
AIVP : In terms of a better port city cohabitation, the Port of Amsterdam is working in a very intensive way on new and innovative solutions to reduce negative impacts such as noise, air and water pollution caused by port and industrial activities on the surrounding residential areas. Can you tell us more about it ?
Carla Jong : Yes, we search for customized and integrated solutions, and some of these green solutions are even partly financed by the construction of new housing projects representing a total of 9 million euros of investments. This financial contribution – also included in “Covenant agreement” mentioned before – allowed a private port company to measure and invests further in new technologies offering a better ecological performance and livability with reduced nuisances to housing. Thanks to this fund, the port company was even encouraged to go above and beyond what Dutch environmental law requires. Nevertheless, new residents have to be informed in advance about the possibility of noise and pollution generated by port activities. More than ever the arrival of new inhabitants represent a risk of many complaints for the port companies and so for their license to operate.
AIVP : So, what will the future of the port city area look like ?
Carla Jong : In 2009, during a joint study, urban planners of the City of Amsterdam and port developers analyzed the different possibilities of a living and working combination in the port city area based on the Western river IJ-Bank after 2029. Three approaches have been already exhausted to see if port activities can be combined with urban uses or if relocation and restructuring would be required. During this period of strong collaboration it was made clear that objectives and also working methods were quite different between port and city. It was therefore fundamental to exchange our different points of view and develop a true dialogue between port, city and port companies. The Amsterdam structural vision 2040 assigns the port-city area as a transformation area. Today we are working with all actors on a transformation strategy. A political transformation decision of the port city area will be taken at the beginning of 2013.