Pasaia: A redefinition of city and port spaces

Published by  1 March, 2016 10:32 am Leave your thoughts

Cesar_salvador_110A contribution of César Salvador Artola, Director, Autoridad Portuaria de Pasaia, España

The Autoridad Portuaria de Pasaia is member of AIVP since 2007.

In September 2015 the Port Council of Pasaia gave the green light for the Special Plan for the regeneration of Pasaia Bay. Apart from the port authority, the Council includes representatives of the Province, the Basque Government and the municipalities involved. This is no doubt the result of a decision taken as part of the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan for the port to defer the construction of an outer port on the Atlantic coast. The particular configuration of the port of Pasaia inside the bay and its close proximity to different administrative districts and residential areas required a redefinition of port and urban uses in this territory in order to preserve the port’s competitiveness and its future. The green light for this plan only affects a part of the territory, but it should probably be seen as the first stage of a more general redefinition of port-city relations and the overall regeneration of the bay.

AIVP – Can you summarise the reasons for your decision to defer the construction of the outer port and explain whether this is the only motivation for adopting this new Special Plan for the port?

César Salvador – The project for the outer port was based on four premises:

  1. Continued traffic growth at a rate of 5% per year. You must remember that planning for the project started long before the economic crisis, when we had experienced fifteen years of uninterrupted traffic growth and episodes of congestion in Pasaia.
  2. The need for a power plant in Gipuzkoa, the inappropriateness of the current location in the inner port and the lack of alternative locations in the Territory: a new coal-fired plant in the outer port was an obvious solution.
  3. Access to funding: the fact that Public Administration Bodies (the Port Authority) can take out loans; access to subsidies; income from the sale of land in the inner port.
  4. High demand for land for residential and third party use, allowing the inner port to be transformed rapidly into a new city.

These four premises have collapsed with the economic crisis. The “new normality” facing us today is not a return to pre-crisis euphoria: the thermo-electric plant has closed and no replacement is expected; one of the port’s main clients, a steelworks, closed because of the crisis, and local towns have opted for a policy of internal transformation, which means they are not acquiring new land. Having said that, it is obvious that the decision not to build the new port was the reason for reviewing the Special Plan.

AIVP – The new redevelopment plan concentrates on the Trintxerpe – San Pedro – La Herrera sector. What actions are programmed and in what time-frame?

César Salvador – The Special Plan coordinates actions in all port areas, within a time-frame which coincides with the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan. Many of the planned actions in areas set aside for cargo handling are important from the angle of our co-existence with the city, since they have an environmental impact. But the boundary developments which will have the greatest significance from the point of view of urban transformation are concentrated in the La Herrera-Fishing Port Zone, and these are programmed for the first four-year period.

In the first place, there is a plan for a big pedestrian walkway and cycle lane, with wide green spaces, from La Herrera to the Fishing Port, which will solve the whole line of contact between the city and the port. Two significant elements of this action are the construction of an underground car-park and the development of a promenade area along the waterfront. Secondly, the warehouse area at La Herrera will be transformed; this will allow the strip located immediately behind the line of contact with the city to be used by modern marine industries to install added-value economic activities. Finally the port warehouses at La Herrera will gradually be replaced (this process may take longer than the first four-year period) by new warehouses, some with paved roofs to make best use of the height difference between the urban area and the port in this southern zone.

AIVP – What will be the impacts on existing port activities: reduction in space used, changes in types of activity, relocation? And what do you think are the port activities and spaces which should be maintained or developed? What alternatives were suggested in discussions with your partners on the Port Council?

César Salvador – If we compare the volume and types of traffic in the port’s record year, 2003, with the predictions of the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan, we find a big fall in scrap (from 2.3 to 0.5 million tons); coal has practically disappeared and new traffics have appeared such as containers, bulk liquids and potash. Steel goods and cars have remained constant; they have been and will remain the backbone of the port’s business.

The work of reviewing the Special Plan has not consisted in displacing port activity to make room for urban uses, but in preparing the commercial wharves for the new traffic mix expected, taking into account the environment and co-existence with our surroundings. If we continue with our comparison with 2003, we have gone from a port which moved 6 million tons, half of which was bulk cargoes handled in the open, to one with a volume of 5.5 million tons in which bulk cargoes, the weight of which has fallen considerably, are handled in closed installations while new traffics such as containers have appeared.

The review of the Special Plan does not displace port activity; it is our way of adapting to changes in demand. The best alternatives for the review of the Special Plan start from the need to handle 5.5 million tons sustainably. That is why there are no major differences between them in terms of the total space occupied for urban use on the one hand and port use on the other. The difference lies mainly in the internal distribution of port uses, and we are choosing the option which will allow us to meet the demand with the highest level of compatibility with the environment. Different traffic scenarios were considered in preparing the Strategic Plan, and it is obvious that if the most pessimistic scenario had been adopted the port would have needed less space, and more space would theoretically have been available for the city. The problem is that under this hypothesis the future of the port would have been in doubt, since there is a viability threshold, of around four million tons, below which the survival of the companies which provide port services (stevedoring, tugs, pilots) comes into question.

We must also remember that the demand for space for urban use and the investment capability of Public Administration Bodies are not what they were in the years before the crisis. A port with a smaller capacity than has been defined as the objective in the Strategic Plan would have compromised the competitiveness of the industries in our hinterland; it would have threatened the future of port companies and created a vacuum that the city would be unable to fill.

AIVP – How will the new distribution of port and urban uses improve the mixture of port and urban functions in these areas?

César Salvador – The review of the Plan exploits a whole range of formulas for generating mixed-use zones, from making the roofs of port buildings available for citizen use, for example the fishing sector and the warehouses at La Herrera Sur, to time-sharing arrangements as in the fishing wharves or the parking area in that sector, which allows citizen use to expand or contract according to the seasonal rhythms of the fishing industry. Mixed use could also be considered for economic activities in La Herrera, as it is more accessible from the city and would bring renewed vitality to commercial and hotel businesses.

AIVP – Your 2015-2025 Strategic Plan aims to develop cruise ship traffic and large pleasure craft. What is your action plan for this aspect of the plan and how will the necessary infrastructure be integrated into the urban space?

César Salvador – We are working very closely with the competent tourism authorities, adapting our supply to their strategy. Their main axes for growth are: capturing tourists with high acquisitive power; non-seasonal tourism; and promoting the province of Gipuzkoa outside the capital, Donostia-San Sebastian. Theme cruises and luxury vessels, which fit in with this strategy, do not require a specific space in the port, either because of their volume or because of the type of experience they offer their passengers.

Having said that, it is obvious that the port in 2020, with less bulk cargo open to view and high quality public spaces along the water’s edge, and with hotel services which match the high standards of Guipuzkoan food, is an even more attractive port for cruise ship passengers than the port in 2017 – when we already have eight cruise ships confirmed, attracted by our environment, the dramatic landscape of the entrance channel overhung by cliffs and the traditional fabric of the historic city centres of Pasai San Pedro and Pasai Donibane.

AIVP – This plan can be seen as the first stage in the regeneration of the whole bay. Looking at the longer term, have you already planned, or at least studied, actions and solutions to improve the way this stage complements urban and residential areas close to other parts of the bay where there are port activities? For example the cargo activities near Donibane and Antxo, or the ro-ro terminal close to Lezo, etc.?

César Salvador – Yes, under the Special Plan we will be able to construct a ring-road round the centre of Lezo, in the eastern sector of the port. But there is no date set for this so far in the plans of the Gipuzkoa local government, which is responsible for roads. This action will divert the traffic which currently goes through the town centre, separating it from the port; it will improve the availability of cycle lanes and allow construction of a public space above the port. In the Antxo area the railway forms a major barrier between the town and the port, so it is difficult to envisage significant changes; in any case these would not be part of the Special Plan for the port, but actions in the spaces closest to the town which are currently occupied by the railway lines. In the Donibane area the transition from port to city is more or less resolved, with a zone for leisure boats, a park and a sports and cultural centre already completed.

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