Our story

bring the spark to the fuel and oxygen

In 2017, the Global Infrastructure Institute became involved in a series of lively conversations on sustainable infrastructure hosted by the Swiss MAVA foundation and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The focus point was to find mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of sustainable solutions with the help of the financial sector. Both are striving for ‘greenification’ but struggle to achieve real world impact.

As both fund managers and infrastructure specialists sat together, a paradox became apparent; plenty of proven sustainable solutions are readily available, while fund managers have plenty of funds seeking infrastructure investment opportunities. It is like fuel and oxygen without a spark. A mission was born…

Ports happen to be one of the most outspoken examples of the available solutions and funding paradox. Trade dynamics, energy transitions, sea level rise, urbanisation; all are drivers for major port investments. Simultaneously improvements of air and water quality, coastal ecosystems, working and living conditions are needed. The vital ports initiative therefore focuses on ports and the difference they can make for society.


from sustainable solutions, to societal benefits, to solid revenue streams

Ports are influential elements in many systems like transport systems, urban systems, energy systems and coastal systems. This position offers great potential to generate societal value in line with the sustainable development goals. However, such potential can only be realised at scale on the foundation of healthy business. The secret to this is the application of state-of-the-art synergetic arrangements that utilise societal value to build solid revenue streams. The Vital Ports initiative offers practical guidance for port authorities and investors to unlock this potential.

Pasfoto Arjan

Dr. Arjan Hijdra is the managing director of the Vital Ports Initiative. Arjan is an infrastructure planner and researcher specialized in waterborne transport infrastructure. His background enables him to link engineering-, network and governance perspectives. He holds a PhD degree in infrastructure planning from the University of Groningen, and a M.Sc. degree in Civil Engineering at Delft University of Technology. He started his professional career in international port consultancy. In 1999 he joined Rijkswaterstaat, the executive arm of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment. He served as a visiting scholar at MIT, Cambridge and at the US Army Corps of Engineers in Washington. Arjan is co-founder of the Global Infrastructure Institute, founded in 2015. This is a not-for-profit organization fostering the practical use of evidence-based guidance in order to push sustainability in the infrastructure sector. Arjan currently serves as the chairman for the Transport Research Arena 2020 for the theme ‘delivery of quality infrastructure for the future’.

Christine Kng is the PPP specialist at the Vital Ports Initiative. Christine has worked on financing, policy and regulation of PPPs since 2015. She currently works in the Infrastructure Finance team of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (KL-SG HSR), a bilateral PPP project between Malaysia and Singapore. During the SG HSR project’s temporary suspension, Christine joined the Ministry of Transport to work on electric vehicles (EVs). In her time there, she was deeply involved in a large interagency committee which created an ambitious strategy for Singapore’s EV growth, from its onset to the strategy’s announcement at Budget. Before 2017, Christine was part of the PPP Initiative at Johns Hopkins University which focused on advisory and research for early stage PPP development, including Urban Development and Park PPPs. Christine holds a M.A. in Energy, Resources and Environment & China Studies from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.


Vital Ports is a not-for-profit initiative which aims to make an impact through cooperation with a variety of partners. The initiative is founded by the Global Infrastructure Institute (NL) and financially supported by the MAVA foundation (CH). For impact and outreach the initiative collaborates with a variety of companies and institutes:

  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (CAN/CH)
  • Central Dredging Association (CEDA)
  • International Association of Dredging Companies (IADC)
  • University of Groningen (NL)
  • Deltares (NL)
  • B-Capital Partners (CH)
  • Swiss-Re (CH)

Vital Ports aims to foster the uptake of available sustainable solutions by port authorities. The primary aim is to reach out to the mass of small and medium sized ports as these often have limited resources but struggle with major challenges all the same. Impact is generated by providing easy to use guidance for sustainable port development through a simple philosophy;

  1. gather proven solutions
  2. assess how sustainable societal value can be used to generate dedicated revenue streams for port authorities
  3. show solutions and associated revenue streams in ‘easy-to-use tools and overviews’

This approach has multiple advantages in terms of reach and replication. The world has around 3700 ports open for the international merchant fleet, and 10.000s of ports if all local (islands!), ferry and fishery ports are accounted for as well. The vast majority of these ports has limited personnel and resources. It is for this reason the three-step philosophy has great advantages as;

  • All interested parties can make use of the tools free of charge
  • The approach reinforces itself as it builds healthy business
  • It avoids the ‘costly consultancy, one-port-at-a-time’ concept.

Technical consultancy can be useful though when solutions need to be crafted fitting the local context. When needed such questions can be forwarded to renowned engineering firms.

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