Plan the City with the Port: “We are convinced that it is the city which has a port, and not the other way round”
Interview : Hugo BORELLI, Vice-President of the AIVP, President of the Consorcio de gestión del Puerto de Bahia Blanca.
To “Plan the City with the Port” and ensure a lasting relationship between the two, Hugo Borelli believes that port master plans need to be coherent with the city’s own development, and ports need to keep citizens constantly informed whilst remaining attentive to their concerns and interests.
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?
Hugo Borelli – The city together with the port should plan the territory. When the port is not seeking consensus with the community and communicates little or nothing about the activities that have high impact on the environment of the city caused by new developments in the port area, a traumatic relationship is created or refractory between both. The port must seek to minimize these impacts, trying to generate local benefits which go, in principle, to the provincial and national governments indirectly. The port and the city must estimate and inform to the community the positive impact of each project over the own city.
In recent times the interaction between the Municipal Authority and the port authority, this is the Consorcio de Gestión del Puerto de Bahía Blanca, is really low, but it has not always been the case in previous years.
The idea of the Port is that it is the city which has a port, and not the other way round, so any port Master Plan should be designed in consensus with the planning of the city itself. The relationship between the City and the Port must be particularly strong and the port should permanently inform to the citizens the positive aspects, as well as resources and jobs that it pours over the city.
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?
Hugo Borelli :
1. Strong public awareness of the importance of having a competitive port;
2. Vigorous participation of the port authority on the demands of citizens;
3. Strong links between local government and the port authority.
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?
Hugo Borelli – Transparency and adequate information about the port decisions. Fortunately, the port of Bahia Blanca has achieved in its 22 years of successful self-management, appreciation and pride of the population, which considers it a prestigious institution that benefits the city. The process is powered by a permanent advertising of port acts and a strong program of Corporate Social Responsibility.
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?
Hugo Borelli – The Open Day Port and Port Centers are very useful tools to bring citizens closer to port activities. Other means are guided tours to the port of different segments of society such as schools, universities, families and friends of the workers in the sector, organizing contests about the port role in the development of society in general, holding artistic activities in the areas of public access, etc.
The port of Bahia Blanca has created recreational and leisure spaces open to the public within its territory. These areas are not under international security restrictions like the rest of the commercial terminals of the port (ISPS Code). It is just the port which has to create the necessary conditions for people to visit it.
The port also established an ambitious education program in primary schools and kindergartens to put in children minds the importance to live in a city with a port.
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?
Hugo Borelli – The historical importance of the ports should be strongly kept, and the challenge is precisely to develop the port-city interface considering the historic character of it. The main objective should be to preserve those “pieces of history” at any price and from that, go ahead into the future.
Our port has preserved buildings and historical facilities since its foundation 130 years ago and it is a general thought to keep them alive as cultural attractions. As an example, the Port Authority has recently opened a promenade called “Balcón al Mar” located at the entrance of the first dock built in the port in 1885, from where the people can see the estuary and the ships operating in different berths.
AIVP – And to conclude, according to you which are the key points for a sustainable mix of urban and port functions?
Hugo Borelli :
– to recognize each other (City / Port) their basic roles;
– to work together (City/Port) ;
– to consider the citizen as one of the main pillars when evaluating any development project (port-industrial, urban, inland transportation, etc.);
– to establish an effective communication system to inform the citizens and receive from them all their questions or concerns.
See also: Port of Bahia Blanca