Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes, an increasingly citizen port
Interview with Yves Salaün, President of the Board, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes
To facilitate the opening of the port world to citizens, teaching them to know and love their ports, AIVP proposed in 2012 that the port and city authorities of each port city should undertake the creation of a Port Centre, an excellent tool for creating links between ports and their citizens. Following the examples of Montreal, Le Havre and Genoa, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes too has now set about actively encouraging local players to ratify the AIVP Port Centre Charter.
AIVP: What needs have triggered this project for the formation of a Port Centre in Guadeloupe? Does Guadeloupe have a particular city/port/citizens problem?
Yves Salaün, President of the Board, Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes: The city/port/citizens problem does indeed exist in a particular form in our island. The “island” is in fact an archipelago, and our institution has a number of sites to get over this particular constraint. Furthermore, because of our history, a certain mistrust has marked the relationship between our citizens and the sea for many years, even outside the Port. This perception has started to change under the impulse of a jointly assumed resolution.
So the decision to create a Port Centre in Guadeloupe is a response to a simple fact: despite the primordial role of the Port in our island territories (95% of the island’s imports and exports pass over our installations), there is still a real lack of understanding of what our role is and how we work, and of the jobs and activities associated with the port. So we must make every effort to raise awareness in our citizens of the fantastic potential for development represented by our activities.
AIVP: Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes, the port authority which manages the commercial port, says that it set this initiative in motion. Who are the other local partners expected to take part, and how have they reacted to this invitation to join the port authority in setting up a Port Centre?
Yves Salaün: Our partners in the initiative are the Tourism Committee of the Islands of Guadeloupe, the Cap Excellence Urban Community, the cities of Pointe-à-Pitre and Basse-Terre (where city-port interfaces are already being created), the town of Baie-Mahault, the Guadeloupe Maritime Cluster, and UMEP (Maritime and Port Union) Guadeloupe.
Our partners are aware of the major challenge represented by the integration of the port into the lives of the population, and the common benefits which the creation of a Port Centre can offer, so they have greeted this invitation with some enthusiasm. In fact we have already reached the point of sharing resources in order to ensure that port activities are carried on harmoniously. Citizens, tourists, players from the shipping world – all these sectors are now in a position to understand the functioning of the port and make the most of what it offers. In this way the commitment made by our various partners will allow us to develop a new vision of Grand Port Maritime de la Guadeloupe.
AIVP: Various actions have already been carried out on the ground to publicise the port and its activities to the population of Guadeloupe. What are they and how successful have they been with the population?
Yves Salaün: By regularly opening the gates of the port to schools, under the “Discovering my port” programme, we offer schoolchildren the chance to discover the different trades and professions involved in port functioning, and the port’s central role in the economic life of the archipelago. We have also developed strong partnerships with the University (census of cetaceans, research into the risks of a tsunami, etc.) and the school authorities (School-Business Week, Open Days, etc.). Over the last two years, nearly 2,000 school pupils have been able to visit port installations. The positive feedback and the frequent applications are proof of the interest awakened in this public.
Opening up also implies deciding to organise or host high quality exhibitions. In June 2014, the Pool Art Fair (an international show of contemporary Caribbean art) was held in our new cruise ship terminal, which had been inaugurated a few months earlier. More than 1,000 visitors came to see the work of international artists, thanks to our offer to hold the exhibition in our terminal.
A large number of other actions have been undertaken to deepen our commitment to society, particularly cooperation with environmental preservation associations and our partnership with the Round Guadeloupe race for traditional sailing boats held each year, which is very popular. However we are still in the early stages of this commitment. The signature of the Port Centre charter next month will enable us to invest more, in total synergy with our partners.
AIVP: Is the local population’s perception of the port changing? What benefits do the port authorities hope for in return for these new initiatives, just as the port is entering on new investment strategies to guarantee its development in the Caribbean basin?
Yves Salaün: Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes is a model port for the Caribbean basin, witness the many recognitions which we have been awarded for the reliability of our installations and the quality of our service. Yes, peoples’ perceptions are changing slowly. And by undertaking the initiatives that we have been talking about we hope to reinforce this impulse and really take advantage of this change in the perception of our institution and its potential. Guadeloupe has a lot of port know-how. We play a driving role in the territory, regulating the economy, respecting the environment in our port management policies, acting as an indispensible lever for development and creating jobs. We want the population to become aware of all these strengths and to reassert their participation in this port – which is their heritage.
Guadeloupe will host a Regional Meeting on 26 and 27 March this year. The Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes Port Centre charter will be signed at the meetings between AIVP and local Guadeloupean institutions. Information and registration at www.guadeloupe.aivp.org