General Theme


The last three decades have seen the appearance of spectacular changes in port cities as they face the increasing globalisation of trade and the economy : relocation of port functions and the generalisation of container transport, redevelopment of Port-City interfaces and waterfronts, renewed dialogue with the city’s inhabitants…

More recently, under the combined effects of economic, ecological and resource crises, port-cities have developed innovative new strategies. They have sought to ensure their own economic competitiveness in order to respond to the diverse demands formulated by local – and also national and global – political and economic players. Thus port-city territories have been progressively invested by new economic players in the domains of renewable energy production, tourism, environmental management, etc.

They have therefore quickly become highly complex spaces, where conflicts of use between city and port, tourism and industry, natural and built-up areas need to be settled. Today, the world ecological and climatic context brings yet another dimension to this structural and functional complexity already facing port-cities. It burdens them with new concerns. The strategies drawn up within the fragile Port-City "ecosystem" must be ever more demanding in terms of sustainable development. The efforts of the interested parties – private and public players and the city’s inhabitants – must be conducted in harmony in the collective interest of all. Through its search for greater organisational efficiency and by sharing the flows of value, energy, data and people, the ambitions of a Smart Port thus fall into line with those of a Smart City, giving birth to the Smart Port City !

And tomorrow ?

As the economic crisis drags on in many developed countries, and growth in emerging countries is marking time, port-cities and world trade players are wondering about the strategic directions adopted in recent years. In today’s situation, would it be best to validate them completely, reorient them or even abandon them ? In a changing world, where the pace is set by technological revolutions, easy access to data and the vital need to optimise resources, can port-cities assume their natural role as players in the global economy while at the same time pursuing constant improvement in the quality of life of their inhabitants ? How can they anticipate the new challenges of a world with a population of eleven billion people at the turn of the century, introducing mechanisms today to ensure a future for everyone in every port-city ? How can cooperation and collaboration be improved between supportive port-cities to meet the demands of sustainable world development ?

At Durban, in the heart of a changing port-metropolis in one of the countries which is shaping the contemporary world, the aim of this 14th World Conference Cities and Ports is to help the players in each city and each port to question the present in order to construct a better future, to build together tomorrow’s Smart Port City !

Three themes for discussion

Theme 1 : Constructing the smart port city with an urban port

The prosperity of port-cities has always been based on intimate contact with seas or estuaries, or with river banks. Today, this geographical proximity to water is managed and organised by port functions, of which it in turn guarantees the performance. It can also play a spectacular part in renewing the urban dynamic and become its principal strength. By following these new logics in order to optimise the use, management and sharing of space along the Port-City interface, the Smart Port City supports an improved quality of life and more sustainable development. Far from being an obstacle, the port becomes the favoured partner of urban projects. Today the Smart Port City is being constructed out of yesterday’s and tomorrow’s urban port.

Objectives :

  • Redeveloping Port-City interfaces to support sustainable urban growth and encourage architectural and landscape integration of port activities.
  • Reducing space consumption by developing innovative solutions for combining and flexibilising urban and port functions.
  • Taking advantage of the presence of water to implement bio-climatic architecture.
  • Developing temporary strategies to maintain the attractiveness of Port-City interfaces while they are redeveloped.
  • Introducing better governance for a sustainable port-city, based on common experiences and features.
  • Introducing new financing models for Port-City projects.
  • Anticipating the consequences of climate change by combining port and city interests.

Theme 2 : Constructing the smart port city with an enterprise-driver port

The port is not only a driver of the local and regional economy, but also a player in the global economy and subject to its swings. In the face of the new international challenges presented by the environment, and the profound economic changes which are occurring today, the port must be flexible in the management of its spaces and functions in order to respond effectively to the demands of its institutional and economic partners. The enterprise-driver port also plays a major role in local development, and participates in the sustainable growth of its territory. Through its search for new skills, through innovation in new processes and tools, the Smart Port makes it possible to implement future-oriented strategies in the medium to long term in harmony with the contemporary concerns of local authorities.

Objectives :

  • Optimising energy production and consumption in the port zone, and reducing GHG emissions.
  • Getting involved in local and world energy transition with renewable marine energy.
  • Organising goods transport inside and outside ports with innovative systems. Coordinating this traffic with the urban mobility of the inhabitants.
  • Introducing circular economy projects in the Port-City territory.
  • Responding to transformations in the cruise and yachting markets, and organising innovative ways of receiving this type of public in sometimes constrained port-city spaces.
  • Developing enterprise-driver systems based on clusters and the sharing of know-how.

Theme 3 : Constructing the smart port city with a citizen’s port

For port-cities, ensuring the development of a genuine dialogue with its inhabitants, can lead to economic performance and a successful construction of a better living standard. The impacts of port functions on the environment, the local economy and jobs still need to be better explained in order for them to be understood and accepted, and finally to become sources of new social and economic dynamics. The omnipresence today of new technologies for information, communication and data exchange has multiplied the opportunities for different forms of association between citizens and the port-city dynamic. New - sometimes virtual - spaces for exchange are being created. Thus the Smart Port City must learn how to make use of these new resources so as to diversify the services offered to the citizens, who in turn will develop greater responsibility.

Objectives :

  • Making the most of digital technology, co-production and citizen commitment to construct an attractive, participative Port-City.
  • Opening the port to citizens and visitors, both physically and virtually, explaining port activities and functions.
  • Managing the nuisances caused by port activity for better coexistence with the inhabitants.
  • Using events at the Port-City interface as a vector for a port culture, to encourage citizens to get involved in the challenges of their ports
  • Encouraging information exchanges between port and city to develop intelligent Port-City tourism.
  • Developing the human resources needed for good port operation and performance.
  • Protecting our natural heritage with all the port’s environmental, social and cultural strengths.

Content updated on mercredi 14 mai 2014