It is increasingly understood that ports are spatial clusters of interrelated economic activities, such as chemical plants, energy plants, construction plants (for instance for components of offshore wind installations), warehouses, and terminals as well as a variety of business services
Huge synergies arise from the co-location of such interrelated companies in ports areas. Many of these benefits arise ‘spontaneously’, for example, the Siemens plant for blades in the port of Hull will use port facilities for receiving parts and transporting the blades to the offshore wind locations, Siemens will also use energy from nearby power plants and employ transport operators from the region.
However, some synergies from co-locations do not emerge spontaneously and instead require collective efforts from all companies in the cluster. An example here would be Rotterdam’s investments in a network to utilise excess heat from plants in the port for local households – such initiatives can only work if most or often all companies support the initiative. Likewise, the Mersey Maritime Knowledge Hub can only create value if the leading maritime companies co-operate to make this a success.
There are clear benefits of active co-operation in port clusters, but how can ports facilitate such joined up thinking? Here, support of a business association that brings together all related companies – such as Mersey Maritime from the example above – can be of great value.
It is striking that in many ports, such cluster associations do not exist. Nationally oriented port associations cannot necessarily fill the gap and are generally fully focused on lobbying, whereas some existing port cluster associations, such as Deltalinqs in Rotterdam and Agha in Antwerp, are deeply involved in projects to strengthen synergies in the cluster.
Other ports could benefit from supporting or even establishing port cluster associations through stakeholder engagement which could ultimately lead to the generation of projects specific to that port environ.
First published @ PortStrategy