Tools & Services

Vital Ports Map

This map shows all 335 cargo ports in the Mediterranean. It is a beta-version of a map linking port characteristics to available sustainable solutions. Such a map will show which solutions can make a wide-scale difference for the Mediterranean. This insight will help governments, industry and investors to craft impactful green investment programs.

Visit the Vital Ports Map

Ideal Port

Ports are meant to provide sheltered waters for loading and unloading ships. However, port activities and port infrastructure come with a considerable impact on the environment. Ports often occupy lage tracts of land in the coastline, affecting both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Activities produce noise, dust, pollution and introduce various risks for pollution.

An ideal port would not come with such externalities. It would provide the services and circumstances needed without the negative impacts. Or even better; it would bring benefits far beyond the outline of the primary purpose. We could call such a port the ‘no-impact port’. Such a port concept has been developed by our partner Deltares jointly with the WWF.

No-impact port (left) and classic port (right). The No-impact port has been developed by our partner Deltares jointly with the WWF.

The ‘ideal port’ provides a perspective on the horizon. It shows the potential of how economic activities can be brought in harmony with nature and human well-being. And although this might not be achievable in the near future for many ports, it does provide guidance for development plans. Such guidance can be helpful to gradually grow in the desired direction.

To provide such guidance for sustainable port development, the concept of Port of the Future can be used. It shows how steps towards a ‘no-impact’ port can be made without losing the primary purpose of a port out of sight. A serious game helps in drafting a vision for the future jointly with stakeholders. These concepts and games have been developed by our partner Deltares (link:

Sustainable Port Solutions

A broad portfolio of sustainable port solutions. All are proven solutions covering the themes of port-waters, port-cities, port-hinterland and port-energy. The portfolio will continuously be updated and expanded on the basis of state-of-the-art insights.

View the solutions

Quick-Scan Green Value

This Quick-Scan helps you to select the most promising sustainable solutions for your port. Most promising solutions are those that both serve your sustainable goals and have the best potential to generate a healthy return on investment.

View Quick-Scan Green Value

Transition Pathways

The four themes for ports ‘waterside, urban side, hinterland and energy’ are all in need for viable transition pathways. These pathways are currently in development. More information will follow.

Foto from beeldbank Rijkswaterstaat

Drivers for Sustainable Change

When considering sustainable change in port planning, the question arises what is driving such change? At first glance it seems to be a simple question. But there’s a lot more to it once you dive deeper. In the many conversions, with representatives of port authorities, infrastructure planning scholars, financial specialists, maritime contractors and public agencies the most influential factors driving this change became evident; regulatory pressure, social licence to operate and business performance.


Photo by Benjamin le Roux

First; regulatory pressure

This is perhaps the most direct way of pushing for change in port planning. Regulatory pressure can come from permitting processes, (inter-)national environmental regulations, financial regulation and oversight or legal restrictions with regards to port mandate or responsibilities. A common argument made by port authorities refers to a level playing field and the ability to run a sound business. If regulatory restrictions apply locally, and competing ports don’t suffer from such restrictions, it could hurt their market position. This results in a general notion that sustainable progress can be made through regulatory pressure when those two conditions are met; business remains healthy and a level playing field is secured. Apart from these barriers as seen from the port sector itself, regulatory changes often involve long processes requiring extensive dialogue, much time and a lot of resources before implementation can take place.

Second; social license to operate

Perhaps the most striking example of a ‘social licence to operate’ is the current debate about the use of coal-energy. In various parts of the world public opinion is turning against the use of coal. This makes both politicians and investors reluctant to stay in support of it, even when financial profitability would not be an issue. Port authorities feel their vulnerable position in this discusion and other debates. Ports are places where heavy industry, piles of coal, oil-tanks, ship emissions and various other undesired phenomena are all visible to the public eye. Even when regulatory compliant, opposition can grow rapidly, eroding public support. The latter can transpire to falling political and financial support (the Blackrock press release of going green is a great example of this). Turning this around, it means that ports need to stay ahead of this curve and ensure the public notices their efforts and witnesses positive developments as proof of a port serving society, and not vice versa.

Third; business performance

The two former fields, regulatory pressure and the social licence to operate, can be seen as external drivers. This last one is an internal one. Sustainable development is often considered to be costly, but in many cases the opposite it true. If we step back a bit this becomes apparent. Sustainability is widely embraced as it brings long term value for society. That value can also bring direct revenues for port authorities. Sometimes this is straightforward, in other cases smart institutional and financial arrangements are needed. Examples are; intelligent led-lighting can reduce energy consumption, improve safety and security and reduce light nuisance for all kinds of species. Such a sustainable investment can deliver a straightforward return on investment through energy savings. Replanting mangroves along the coastline can reduce dredging cost in navigation channels, but also support the local fishing community and drive real estate prices. In the latter case smart arrangements can help to ensure compensation for the party that incurs the cost for this investment.

With these three fields, regulatory pressure, societal licence to operate and business performance, the playing field for sustainable port planning is largely determined. These fields are not to be seen as independent, interdependencies are all around. This means port authorities need to move strategically and involve the actor-networks they operate in. The good news is that there are plenty of good examples of sustainable solutions to shape sustainable port development. Many of those solutions are helpful in achieving regulatory compliance, improving support of the public and driving port revenues in general.

Drivers for sustainable change in port planning - a three layered model

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