Ports are part of a wide variety of systems. Examples are transport systems, social systems, ecological systems, economic systems and energy systems. Ports provide the levers to influence these systems. In practice these systems correlate to four themes: ports and their waters, ports and their city, ports and their hinterland, ports and energy.

Port and their waters

Port entrances and their deepened channels form an artificial element in a natural coastline. Sediment flows, habitats, marine life is influenced through construction and existence of hard elements and can affect coastal systems tens of miles away from the port itself. Aside from the physical changes, dredging and construction itself also cause a variety of negative effects; dumping ground for dredged materials burying sea life, suspended particles due to dredging, noise from marine construction works. Shipping activity brings several other concerns ranging from oil spills, dumping of waste, dissolving anti-fouling coatings, toxic emissions from the engines and mixing of ecosystems through release of ballast water. This is a selection of effects, but the range is diverse and impact is severe.

Port and their city

The city and port are often interwoven. Life and work take place in this area, traffic flows through the streets and air, noise and dust go from one pace to the other. Port activities influence daily life in the city, prosperity and well-being are closely interlinked. To name a few; waterfront quality can improve attractiveness of the city, port areas are needed to close urban material loops, smart solutions for air quality can help improving public health and solutions for traffic flows can ease congestion.

Ports and their Hinterland

The hinterland is not part of the port itself, but port authorities have powerful position to influence how cargo flows from and to the hinterland. Choices for rail, truck, inland waterways or short sea shipping are determined by overall efficiency of the transport systems. Connections between systems play a major part in this. By facilitating or stimulating one modality over the other, ports have a powerful position to influence how cargo enters and leaves the port.

Ports and energy

Coal, oil, gas; fuels are one of the most common commodities in many ports. Energy transitions all over the world will therefore affect the status quo in ports. Ports are also the places where ships take their own fuels, where industry produces heat, and where hydrogene markets could emerge. The broad palette of energy suppliers, carriers and users provides many challenges and opportunities.

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