Plan the City with the Port: “The collective interest is the foundation of a fruitful and sustainable City-Port relationship”
Interview: Mario GIRARD, Vice-President of the AIVP, President and Chief Executive Officer, Port of Quebec
When asked how to successfully “plan the City with the Port” – from the title of AIVP’s guide of good practices published last June – Mario Girard’s response contains two major recurring themes: prioritising collective interests over individual interests, and treating dialogue with the entire community as a means of returning the port to its rightful place.
AIVP – Nowadays there is a strange link between ports and cities: from one hand ports need to be competitive if cities want to benefit from it. But on the other hand, while benefits are generated to a supra-regional or supra-national level, negative port impacts generated by noise, air pollution, and traffic congestion, are localized. What local governments can do in order to solve this mismatch? What are they doing in your port-city?
Mario Girard – First of all, we should point out that it makes no sense to turn our noses up at the positive effects that a port and its infrastructures have on the local and regional economy. The majority of people who work in a port or the maritime sector are highly skilled and well paid. At the Port of Quebec for instance the maritime businesses and port give work to five thousand people. That is something that should not be overlooked.
Yes Ports give work but they also damage the environment… Ports and land-based infrastructures have a considerable impact on the environment, there’s no denying it. That is why we need to have an open dialogue between the population and traders who are in the immediate vicinity of port areas. This dialogue needs to be constant and fruitful.
It is of paramount importance for traders and residents to understand the reality of their neighbourhood, it is equally important to make these people understand the port setting and its users. This is the first step in reaching the objective of full integration between port and city. It must be conducted in concert with appropriate policies to mitigate the negative perception that people might have of their port. What is required is effective communication that explains these measures. A port must communicate and explain its work to guarantee better integration of port operations on the surrounding area.
The port administration of Quebec is doing a great deal to bring the port and local citizens closer together. For example:
- we have set up a committee to interact with the local community,
- we have set up work committees with citizens to focus on geographical themes,
- we have an open committee on the environment within which we have arranged the participation of workers and port users.
- We have standardised the procedures for monitoring and intervention: we have set up a 24 hour hotline for information on environmental subjects, we have established a system to monitor fine dust and arranged continuous training and raise awareness among workers so they can take preventive and proactive action to reduce the risk of accidents.
- In addition, the port of Quebec is part of a social network that has direct contact with the population so that it can inform them of the port’s main activities. Constant, relevant communication is a highly effective too.
- But things don’t end there, we have increased the role of citizens in the local decision-making processes, involving them at all stages of the project, from planning through to execution.
- The directors at the APQ (Administration Portuaire De Québec) take an active part in the round tables arranged by the city of Quebec.
- What’s more there is a department that is solely dedicated to Responsibility towards Citizens.
- The list of things that the Canadian Port Authority has effectively done and is doing to convey a positive image of its port has helped us to understand the assets the administration should focus on to mitigate the negative impacts arising from port operations.
AIVP – The three main determinants for competitive ports are: extensive maritime forelands, effective port operations and strong hinterland connections. But, according to you, which are the three determinants for a successful port-city?
Mario Girard :
- First of all, lack of communication and not listening to others leads to misunderstanding and ill-feeling;
- Secondly, a port could make a big mistake by allowing an individual to have benefits to the detriment of the collective; such behaviour is the root of many conflicts between citizens and government;Finally, another mistake is not understanding or refusing to understand the importance of social integration for the purpose of the sustainable and shared development of the port.Finally, another mistake is not understanding or refusing to understand the importance of social integration for the purpose of the sustainable and shared development of the port.
- Finally, another mistake is not understanding or refusing to understand the importance of social integration for the purpose of the sustainable and shared development of the port.
AIVP – The support of a local population is essential for ports in order to keep their license to operate. What distinguishes a successful port city from another is the sense of pride and ownership of the port by the population. According to you, what must be the basis for developing a good sense of pride?
Mario Girard – One must develop a port culture. Get the population to associate port development with pride. The population must be informed about port activities, port equipment and buildings must not be an eyesore and blend into the cityscape; with waterfront buildings that are pleasing to the eye. On top of this one must exploit maritime heritage and history. All too often, locals find themselves going for a walk in public areas in a port without realising that they are in the heart of the port. A port must show-off its assets with pride and demonstrate its cultural, social and economic worth.
AIVP – Several ports apply open and active communication strategies to inform and engage locale citizens and improve their image by opening up the port to the public. One of the most successful examples of this more open and proactive approach are the Port Centers. Antwerp, Genoa, Rotterdam…: several important ports have their own port center that provide accessible information on port’s operations, industrial areas, and so on. Are they the key to improve the image of a port perceived by the population? Do you have other examples of good practices in regards to these communication strategies in your local framework?
Mario Girard – One will never be able to do enough to inform the citizens on the importance of a port and its activities for the surrounding area. In the port of Quebec open days, footpaths around the port structures, murals on shed walls depicting historic moments of the port, setting up a social network, the dissemination of videos on port jobs and free port visits open to locals are all examples of good governance. The port of Quebec has also opened three parks near and inside the port, there are 5km of cycle-path, an open-air theatre, a beach a marina and events center. These are open-air areas and events for the local population in a port that handles between 25 to 30 million tonnes of goods a year.
AIVP – Developing Port-City interfaces has been often related with the rehabilitation of old port areas. But may the transformation of city/ports interfaces be promoted without affecting its historical and cultural identity? How?
Mario Girard – There is a simple answer: you must always respect maritime heritage. It is possible to innovate and give a contemporary feel to buildings that are being regenerated, without diminishing their associations with the past and their historical nature. This also requires propagating a port culture. A port can and must be seen and considered a source that improves the local quality of life.
AIVP – And to conclude, according to you which are the key points for a sustainable mix of urban and port functions?
Mario Girard :
- Having effective communication;
- developing initiatives with a high educational value, whilst ensuring that this does not spill over into propaganda;
- ensuring that there is suitable investment in the surrounding area to counterbalance the effects of new port business or infrastructure plans;
- ensure that the public is made aware of the port’s role and importance; give information on a daily basis about what is happening in the port;
- maintain a good relationship with the various political decision-makers;involve the population in the port’s plans and development.
- involve the population in the port’s plans and development.
These are all actions that institutions should implement to foster genuine integration between the port and city
Port of Quebec, future projects:
- Beauport 2020, A multifunctional deep-water terminal
- Louise Basin
- Anse au Foulon Harbour walkway
- Cruise infrastructure project