“Port and city together should seek compatible activities to bring out these elements of which they can be proud.”

Published by  25 February, 2016 10:02 am Leave your thoughts

Interview : Aurelio Martínez, Presidente, Autoridad Portuaria de Valencia, España

The Autoridad Portuaria de Valencia is member of AIVP since 1997.

AIVP – Mr Martínez, you were appointed President of the Valencia Port Authority last August. In October you announced the creation of a Territorial Integration Committee which will include the Mayors of the three cities involved in port activities, Valencia, Sagunto and Gandía. This decision is in itself a strong, powerful message. Can you tell us what lies behind the decision to create this committee? What need(s) is it intended to meet, and what do you expect of it? 

Aurelio Martínez – Port/city relations in any city or any large port tend to be complex. There are always issues which need to be discussed: transport, access, the location of different port activities, etc. I felt that, to speed up consensual handling of these issues, it would be a good idea to create an advisory committee to study and analyse what solutions would be most beneficial for both parties, port and city, which when you come down to it represent the same people – the city’s population. This is best done from a multidisciplinary angle and with the participation of all the city councils involved. Cities should be proud of their ports and the potential they offer. To generate this pride, ports must involve their cities in their activities. Port and city together should seek compatible activities to bring out these elements of which they can be proud.In Valencia for example, a lack of communication between port and city has been apparent for years. Everyone knows that this is nothing new. It is practically a common saying that “Valencia has always turned its back on its port”. And it springs to the eye – but the port is Valencia! We need to find a formula to overcome this inertia and bring port and city together. And by this I mean the ports of Valencia, Sagunto and Gandía, the three ports managed by the Valencia Port Authority.

The one thing I hope for from this move by the Port Authority to get closer to the city and work in agreement is that the city will understand the port’s problems, because we want to inform the population about the real situation in a port/city with international projection. A lot of improvements were made when the America’s Cup was held in Valencia; now the time has come to improve connections and services to the adjoining districts of Nazaret, La Punta, etc. The population will be our priority when decisions are taken.

Port of Valencia, aerial view

AIVP – To explain this new management system to our readers, can you tell us how the Committee will work – how it will be started up and how joint decisions will be reached?

Aurelio Martínez – The Committee to which you are referring is called the “Valencia Port Advisory Committee” and it acts as a sub-committee of the Board of Directors of the Valencia Port Authority (APV) responsible for promoting port/city territorial integration. The chairman is none other than the Mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó. The other members of the committee are: the Valencia urban development councillor, Vicent Sarrià; the urban development adviser, Alejandro Pons; the director general of urban regulation, Florentina Pedrero; the independent secretary of housing, public works and territorial coordination, Josep Vicent Boira; the director general of territorial regulation, urban development and landscape, Lluís Ferrando; the sub-director general of urban development, Enrique Martí; the director general of the APV, Francesc Sánchez and the APV president, Aurelio Martínez. The committee is open to the participation of selected technical advisers for specific issues. Its conclusions are reported to the Territorial Integration Committee and the Board of Directors, which must approve the agreements reached before they can be put into effect.

AIVP – Is there a community consultation process to hear the views of local actors and the population on certain projects?

Aurelio Martínez – Of course. Consultation and dialogue with society representatives and with the community are included through social organisations. This is the essence of this new port-city relationship that we are starting to build.

AIVP – Some of the integration problems on which this Committee will have to decide have already been published in the press: the redefinition of port access routes, the extension project for the port of Gandía, the development of a logistics activities zone and its potential impact on the urban district of Nazaret as well as the city of Valencia. It may be premature, considering that the Committee has only just been created, but could you explain the challenges, the problems implied, the solutions currently being studied and the points of difference with the territorial organisations involved, for each of these projects?

Aurelio Martínez – Yes, the current issues are the ones you mention. These are issues with many complex details, but which need to be explained simply and transparently to the population. For example, if we take the question of access routes, it is very hard to understand why today around 2,500 of the 8,000 trucks which arrive daily at the biggest port in the Mediterranean are forced to drive right round the metropolitan area on the by-pass, resulting in problems of CO2 pollution, traffic intensity and reduced competitiveness. This example demonstrates that we have an obligation to study access routes with the lowest possible impact for a city and port like Valencia, which is already projecting traffic increases of over 50%.

In the Port of Gandía also there are projects and proposals to improve access routes to port installations so that trucks do not have to cross the city; this will relieve traffic congestion and reduce the nuisance to the population.

In Sagunto the proposals are aimed at resolving the southern access with a Logistics Activities Zone (ZAL); use of the railway is being looked at to improve connections with the road network in central Spain and with Saragossa and Cantabria in the north. The disagreements and problems that have arisen in the past over these issues have always resulted from a lack of communication – perhaps because of the difficulties of publicising the benefits that all these projects will bring in terms of creating jobs, activity, traffic… and certainly standard of living. The lack of communication has led to lack of mutual understanding. And this is our challenge: to improve communication in order to raise self-esteem.

Port of Valencia - Current access and connections

AIVP – You have announced that you want to build up cruise ship activity and position Valencia as an alternative to Barcelona. How do you intend to work with territorial organisations to develop this undeniable potential? How do you see this activity being integrated with the city? Can you anticipate the risks of saturation which other port cities are already facing as a result of the mass arrivals of cruise passengers and tourists?

Aurelio Martínez – Cruise ship tourism will continue to expand rapidly, and Valencia offers undeniable attractions for growth in this sector. The community of Valencia is not just an international force in beach tourism. We are also a reference for cultural and culinary tourism and for our history. We can compete with the best that the Mediterranean has to offer; for example the tourism potential of the Roman fort at Sagunto, the Lake and Nature Reserve at La Albufera, the beaches, the Gothic World Heritage site and even our internationally recognised cuisine. These are realities which we can exploit as tourism assets, involving the whole of society as well as the organisations responsible (agencies, city halls, councils, the hotel sector, etc.). All we need to promote the development of this activity is to be aware and to observe the economic impact in cities with a cruise ship industry. And I am talking about both direct and indirect impacts: do not forget the repeat visitors. Valencia is a privileged site for tourism, and it is far from the saturation already apparent in other ports, which both the local population and the visitors are starting to notice.

Port of Valencia - Cruise industry

AIVP – Finally, and as a continuation of the recent interviews on our guide “Plan the city with the port” with the AIVP President, Mr Philippe Matthis (Port of Brussels) and two of our Vice-presidents, Mr Hugo Borelli (Port of Bahía Blanca) and Mr Mario Girard (Port of Quebec): In your opinion, what are the key points for achieving a lasting combination of urban and port functions?

Aurelio Martínez – The first is Communication. You have to explain things so that the population can understand them. You have to go into details of the “what” and “why” of certain actions. You have to explain the advantages and disadvantages and invite the population, through their representative associations, to be part of the decision-making process. You have to listen to people, propose debates and separate specific from general criticism. You have to differentiate what affects individuals from what affects broad groupings or the whole of society. You have to take decisions and stop problems from dragging on. In our case, it is unpardonable that decisions on the Northern Access or the ZAL have been postponed for 20 years. People cannot understand it. And it is very important to invite the political parties to take part in these decisions, all of them, without exception. And you always have to act with understanding and affection for people; honestly, quickly, professionally and with transparency.



Leave a Reply