Mega-ships: impacts on port cities

To remain competitive, port cities have for decades had to adapt their infrastructures and territorial strategies to reflect the needs of expanding world trade. This process of adaptation is doubtless necessary, but the advent of mega-container ships exceeding 400 metres in length, or new generation cruise vessels capable of carrying up to 6,000 passengers, is posing new questions. Dialogue between local communities, port authorities and shipowners is vitally important. Urban stakeholders are adopting new ambitions on issues such as sustainable development, quality of life, managing public spaces sensibly or keeping a rein on spending to create and maintain road, rail and river infrastructures.

  • Can those new ambitions support, or even merely cope with these new maritime strategies?
  • Should not public interest considerations for sustainable development in port cities take priority over profitability for shipping?
  • How can the different interests be reconciled?
  • How far should ports go to accommodate exponential growth in goods volumes or passenger numbers, without compromising mobility between the city and port or within the wider port region?
  • How can increasingly significant flows be redistributed across countries or continents?
  • What can be done to ensure that the added value generated benefits the territories concerned?

More and more conflicts are arising between the different uses of space and infrastructures, and shrinking public finances are an increasing source of concern for politicians and economic operators alike. Faced with difficult investment choices and new public expectations, port cities are assuming their role as partners of the shipping industry and opening up dialogue.

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