Several authors have studied the evolution of the relation between cities and ports, developing different models, identifying a conflict situation that in many cases continues until today. In this article we will try to briefly summarized some of the causes of the conflict and their impact in the relation. After, we will mention some strategies used by the port authorities and communities and how they can be complemented by the Port Centers. Finally we will see how this concept works and how it has evolved from the first generation to the second, explaining two examples from each one.
The Port-City relation
We can find complains regarding the port infrastructure and how they cut the access to the water already in the late 19th century. However, the positive outcome of having a port at that time it was clear. The number of jobs associated with the port activities and the economic advantages granted a certain social support for the port development. The evolution of the logistic chain, the maritime technology, the world economy, planning practices or new legislation forced changes during the 20th century in the port configuration and functioning. Due to these changes, among other things, the positive effects of the port activities began to spread over the region or the country, while the negative externalities, mainly related with the environment and traffic, remained in the port-city (Ircha, 2013; Merk, 2013,2014).
Along with the diminishment of the positive externalities, the raise of an ecological conscience during the second half of the 20th century had as well an impact in the way people saw ports. This phenomenon created social concerns about the environment and the negative effects certain industries could cause. These concerns eventually resulted in a movement opposing some industrial infrastructures, including ports and their expansion projects.
The process aforementioned, particularly the decrease in the economic impact of the port-maritime activities in the local society, has been named by other researchers as demaritimisation (Musso et al. 2011). This term can also include the decrease of the cultural presence of the port in the port-cities, which results in a loss of maritime character. The lost of port conscience could eventually lead to the reallocation of public resources into other sectors, further harming the port development. It is also possible to observe that the ports, and more specifically the port authorities, have not, for the major part of their history, maintain a transparent communication with the city or the local citizens. As result, the physical and symbolic distance between cities and ports has been increasing.
Simultaneously a new type of project began to take place in port-cities, the urban waterfront regeneration plans. This sort of intervention, which started in the 1960s in the USA, was initially based in the transformation of port brownfields near the city center. By the end of the 20th Century, the evolution of this type of projects and the changes in the urban development tendencies had transformed the waterfront area into one of the most appealing locations for new city districts, changing the previous industrial activities for housing projects, office buildings, public spaces or cultural facilities (Schubert, 2011). Among other issues, the increase of value of the waterfront plots put more pressure on the port to leave the locations close to the city center. In some cases, like Oslo, the port authorities also saw this process as an opportunity to finance new port infrastructure outside the urban core. The result of these changes was that in numerous cases ports were no longer visible nor existed close to the everyday routines of the city as it was before, separating themselves from the general image of the local identity.
The evolution of the port-city relation as previously described have resulted in a significant diminishment of the social support of ports. In the late 20th century and beginning of the 21st, we could see a shift in the priorities of the port authorities. They start to include the social integration of ports in their program and projects (Merk,2013). In the early 21st century several documents from European initiatives were published showing the concern about this issue. In this context one of the aims of the port authorities was granting the Social License to Operate. As explained by other authors (Dooms ,2014, Boutilier and Thomson,2011) the SLO is, in its broader concept, fulfilling the expectations of stakeholder and local communities in dimensions that go beyond the creation of wealth, i.e. the social acceptance of port activities by local communities, that take in consideration other elements, besides the economic impact of the port.
To achieve the SLO, a common strategy has been to appeal to what was named by Van Hooydonk as the Soft – Values, “the non-socioeconomic values which include among others historical, sociological, artistic and cultural sub-functions that form the soft-function of seaports” (Van Hooydonk, 2007). In some of the bigger port-cities, such as Rotterdam or Hamburg, the port festivals have been an important event in the festivities calendar. This sort of events are being implemented in port-cities around the world with relative success in terms of local participation. The use of the soft-values has been enhanced by different port authorities, developing a socio-cultural agenda, from movie festival to concerts or sport events.
The practices using soft-values have been able to attract people to the port territory, create a visual relation with the port atmosphere and in some cases help to keep the port-maritime identity of some port-cities. However, there is a tendency to a certain romanticism in the cultural events, sometimes detached from the real functioning of the port. As mentioned by Verhoeven (2011), both soft and hard values are necessary to regain the public support of ports. In order to develop a process of remaritimisation of port-cities, it is mandatory to combine innovative port activities, that generate new port related jobs and locally created added value, with the aforementioned Soft-Values and a clear communication channel. Considering the discredit of many political institutions and the tendency of the bottom-up planning policies, it seems reasonable to look for new tools for the port-city relation, adapted to the new scenario, such as the Port Centers.
The Port Center Concept
The Port Center concept can be described as a ” museum and didactic structure oriented to the diffusion of port and maritime awareness and knowledge” (Ghiara, 2012). This structure has a physical location, a permanent exhibition and staff focused in the organization of visits to the center and the port territory. This structure has been used to articulate the relation between the port and the citizens, including local and foreign visitors. As we will see in the examples, the Port Center has also been created as a two way communication channel where, not only the people can get information about the port, but also is possible to organize a debate about the port-city relation or the port expansion projects. In most European countries the public discussion of large infrastructural projects is mandatory by law, which is also an opportunity to involve the locals in the port development debate and generate a certain feeling of appropriation of the port.
The Soft-Values of seaports, as mentioned before, are one of the main assets ports can use to regain the social acceptance and visibility. The management of these values can also be made using the Port Center as the hinge for the port-city interaction, developing the socio-cultural agenda and the educational programs, fostering the public debate or implementing new information channels. The Port Centers form an alternative way to communicate with the citizens, complementing the existing initiatives. We can identify two different generations of this sort of structure since they started to be used in the late 1980s.
Antwerp Port Center
The impact generated by the larger ports usually requires them to develop innovative strategies to reduce their negative externalities and increase their social integration, including innovative ways of information disclosure (Merk, 2013, 74). In 1988 the first Port Center was created in one of Europe’s biggest ports, Antwerp. This new facility was, and still is, located in the center of the port territory, on the right bank of the Scheldt river, next to the Lillo fort, 20 Km. from the city center. The scope for which it was founded was mainly educational, seeking to change the negative perception the port had, mainly among the younger generations. This issue is particularly relevant, not just regarding the social acceptance, but also concerning the lack of qualified workers.
The educational scope of the Antwerp Havencentrum, previously also known as Lillo Port Center, was clear since it was initially thought exclusively for school classes. The fact of being far from the public transport was not a problem since the groups would arrive directly with their own means. Later, the Center allowed different types of groups, increasing their impact in the local society, welcoming pensioners and company delegations visiting the port.
The Port Center of Antwerp is mainly financed by the province, responsible for 70% of its budget. In an initial moment it did not included other organism in the board of directors, but this situation changed in 2014 when the representatives of the logistics and industrial sectors of the port were invited to the board. The integration of the different stakeholders of the port community is important, not just for possible economic support, but also for the legitimacy of the project and the organization of the port visits. Secondary financing strategies have also been developed, including an entrance fee for the visitors and the sublet of meeting rooms as venue for the interested companies.
The exhibition space (800sqm) explains the functioning of the port and its impact in the regional, national and international level. The pedagogic project has been developed following the principle of edutainment, combining the explanation of the logistic chain, the ships and the port territory with interactive games in order to captivate the attention of the students. This strategy was inspired by the science museums, and later was followed by Port Centers developed afterwards.
The integration of former employees in the guides team is another positive aspect of the project. This initiative allows to maintain a certain sense of port community and gives first hand testimonies to the visitors. In order to grant the correct communication between the youngsters and the retired port workers, the latter received an specific training for the interaction and explanation of their experiences.
So far the Antwerp Port Center has enjoyed reasonable success according to the number of visitors, over 47 000 per year (AIVP, 2016). The coordination with the educational community has been as well positive. Other forms of collaboration have been developed, particularly relevant with the high schools focused in the maritime education and with the institute of maritime management and transport from the university of Antwerp. The main critic could be that, for the moment, it has not been possible to organize a two way interaction as some examples of the second generation, limiting the possible communication (Ghiara et al. 2014). Another issue could be the fact the Port Center of Antwerp still is reserved for groups visits from the target audiences, not allowing individual visits, limiting its social impact capacity.
The second Port Center of the first generation is the EIC (Education and Information Centre) of Rotterdam. This structure was created in late 1993 by Deltalinqs (Association of port companies of Rotterdam) and the port of Rotterdam Authority. It shares several characteristics with the case of Antwerp regarding location, scope and type of visitors. It is placed next to Rozenburg and the Europoort terminal, 20 km from the city center and without a good public transport connection.
The main goal was to explain the port to the new generations and show them that the port can be a good option to pursue a professional career. As it happens in Antwerp, the port was no longer seen as an attractive location to work (Aarts et al., 2012) . The strategy to explain the ports is similar as well to Antwerp. It includes a permanent exhibition with games and didactic activities and organizes port visits for the groups that come to the center. It also offers their services and facilities to the port companies, including the possibility of hosting private events. This service, along the entrance fee, provides a secondary financing source. In the website we can find educational material to assist the school teachers to better prepare the visit and take the maximum profit of it.
The success of this initiative is clear, receiving 22 000 visitors per year (Merk, 2013) but, as the aforementioned example, for the moment it does not allows individual visitors. Nevertheless the Port of Rotterdam decided to develop a second Port Center, already part of the second generation, including some changes in the model followed so far.
The concept of the Port Center has been implemented in different contexts and we can find examples in port -cities in and outside Europe. It took more than two decades for the concept to be used by other port-cities. To this second wave, developed since the first decade of the 20th century, belong for example the cases of Genoa, Melbourne, Vancouver, Busan, Rotterdam- FutureLand, Le Havre, Ashdod and Livorno. In the initiatives that integrate this second generation we can find a greater variety of solutions for the challenges faced by the centers from the first one.
In terms of financing we can see different approaches. On one hand, there is possibility of a collaboration between different institutions, related with the port, including port authorities, municipalities and regions or the chamber of commerce. This approach can be found in Genoa, Le Havre or even in the port museum of Dunkirk. On the other hand, we can also find initiatives that are full responsibility of the port authorities, for example Rotterdam-FutureLand, Melbourne, Ashdod or Livorno. This second model reveals how the concern regarding the social acceptance and integration has grown in the port authorities. In the first generation the port authorities were not so present in the financing or the organization, mainly done by the province or the association of port companies. The option of a joint project gives more credibility to the center since it is more unlikely that is perceived by the visitors as a public relation from the port authority.
The location issue has also been handled in different ways. We can find two main options: The Port Center placed in the port territory, as it was in the first generation, or located in the boundary between port and city, near the urban core. In Melbourne and Ashdod the structure is placed in the port area, being the second one in a restricted access location. The visit is only possible in groups, often with their own transportation. This solution allows a direct impression of the port, but it reduces the options of individual visitors. The second possibility, implemented in Genoa and later in Livorno or Le Havre, has an easier access to the facility. This second option allows an easier access to the general public, broadening the target audience. However, it is important to notice that, in several cases here presented, the choice of the location was very often more related with the available facilities than with other criteria. The majority use existing locations, in some examples occupying heritage buildings owned by the port or one of the partners, giving a stronger sense of attachment to the place and a more recognizable space.
Regarding the target audience, the majority of the Port Centers are focused in the younger public, particularly the children and teenagers deciding the educational path they want to take. In some cases, like Genoa or Le Havre, it was decided to welcome a wider audience, occasionally developing content and activities for a more mature public. For example, Le Havre developed the technical Thursdays program, during which experts from port different activities or port development do presentations about specific topics in a more detailed level.
Another element that has changed is the entrance fee. In most cases of the second generation the entrance fee is no longer applied or with a symbolic figure. The majority of the project financing has been done by the participating partners.
Simultaneously to the second generation the AIVP created the Port Center Network. This work group was established in 2011 (Morucci et al. 2016) with the goal of connecting the existing Port Centers from both generations and share the best practices. One of the main inputs of this initiative has been the Missions Charter of a Port Center, a document published in 2013 with ten key points explaining the goals and challenges if this type of projects
From the mentioned cases that form the second generation we will explain in further detail two, the Italian Port Centers of Genoa and Livorno.
Genoa Port Center
The Port Center of Genoa was one of the first cases of the second generation. The project was supported by five different institutions: the Genoa Port Authority, the Maritime Authority, the Province of Genoa, the University and the Municipality of Genoa (through the Porto Antico SpA) (Ghiara, 2012). The chosen location for the new facility was in the Porto Antico area, next to the city center and other urban attractions, like the Bigo or the aquarium, with an easy access for the general public.
The university of Genoa, more specifically the faculty of economy, developed the necessary research collaborating with the port community. The main motivation of the project was not to explain the point of view of the port authority, but to include all the different perspectives of the port-city relationship.
Around the Port Center a socio-cultural agenda was developed. During the first years a series of events took place, such as the port run, movies on the docks, or activities coordinated with other museums and science centers. This panoply of actions was destined, as pointed out by Ghiara (2012), to promote the soft-values and articulate the relation between both realities.
Although the general public was the target audience, the school groups still received considerable attention. Besides the exhibition and the tours to the port territory, other activities were programmed. One of the main examples was the “Let’s adopt a ship” project, by which the student groups would be able to remain in contact with the crew of a ship (Ghiara et al, 2014).
During the first years the project received 14000 visitors each year (Merk, 2013), including almost 6000 students per year in average (Ghiara, 2012).
The Port Center of Genoa is since mid 2014 closed due to a lack of understanding between the participant partners. The goal after the first years was to give the management of the center to the port authority but for the moment the situation is unclear. This problem shows how difficult and complex the collaboration between the different institutions operating in the port-city can be. This issue will affect the image of the port and the aimed social support, in this case particularly necessary since the port has a direct boundary with the city along the entire urban waterfront.
Livorno Port Center
On November 2015 the most recent Port Center of the second generation opened its doors in the port-city of Livorno. In this case the project is developed by the port authority of Livorno, that since 2007 has developed several initiatives aimed towards a better social integration of the port. Among these actions, the one that has received greater recognition, is the Porto Aperto program, during which social activities in the port are organized, mainly during the school period.
There are several aspects from the case of Livorno that differentiate it from previous cases. The center is located inside the Fortezza Vecchia, a fortress from the 16th Century. This heritage construction is placed in the boundary between the city and the port and offers a historic context for the Port Center, as well as different points where the visitors can see the port from an elevated location. The port authority was able to use its own resources for the refurbishment of a section of the fortress since it would host the Port Center, what can be considered a port function. This issue is particularly relevant since, in the case of Italy, the law very often does not allows the port authorities to finance projects that are not related with the port activities.
The Port Center includes a permanent exhibition and a library. However, when compared with other cases is considerably smaller, adapted to the local context. Regarding the exhibition itself another innovation is its layout. Although the principles of edutainment are still present, the final solution used new available technologies, such as virtual reality or kinetic games, to give a more interactive experience. Besides the fact of being more attractive to the teens and children visiting the center, this new approach allows a certain flexibility and adaptation capacity, since the necessary equipment is easier to move and transport.
One of the original motivations of the Port Center of Livorno was, besides explaining the port, to develop a forum where the ideas about the port-city relation could be shared and discussed (Corradini & Morucci, 2012). This goal became a reality during the spring of 2016, from April to June, when the port debate took place in the fortress and included the port center as one of the main tools to explain the port and the development project planned. The figure of the debate is planned in the regional law of Tuscany in cases where the project budget exceeds 50 million €. In this case there were two proposals to be discussed, the Europe Platform, including different infrastructure related with the logistics sector, and the new maritime station, mainly destined to passenger traffic. The project would be located in a position that could create new port-city interaction, including interventions in the existing heritage. During the different debate sessions, the public got to know the issues related with both projects, besides general information about the port functioning. The debate also worked as a two way communication, since the citizens were also able to give their inputs to the discussion, although the port authority is not compelled to follow the conclusions of the debate. During the initiative the participants could also make port visits. The organization created as well an online user-friendly platform where all the information was available.
In the evolution of the relation between port and city we have seen how the interaction and communication has changed. The need to obtain the SLO forced many port authorities to include the social integration as one of their priorities. In an initial moment it was noticed that the use of the soft-values could help to regain the port identity of many port-cities. The development of a socio-cultural agenda has became a reality in many cases. However, we have seen that it is necessary to explain the port reality as it is nowadays, complementing the romantic vision often presented with updated information.
The port-cities are territories open to urban planning innovation, as we have seen in numerous waterfront projects. In this case, the Port Center is an element around which is possible to articulate the relation between port and city, including the local citizens., while contributing to the social acceptance of the port. These structures offer the inhabitants the opportunity to re-appropriate themselves of the port and identify it as an important element of the city’s identity.
The success of the policies developed by the different port-authorities, including the management of Soft-Values and Port Centers, is yet to be measured. The study of these actions and their results is a relevant subject to be studied, which should be approached with a holistic methodology. The investigations would have to be formulated including several perspectives from different fields. The study of the policies impact would determine their validity and how they must be adapted to the ever changing reality of the port-cities.
This paper was presented in the session about European Seaport Culture in the 13th Conference on Urban History that took place in Helsinki, between the 24th and 27th of August.
Aarts, M., Daamen, T., Huijs, M., & de Vries, W., Port City development in Rotterdam: A true love story. 2013, Retrieved from http://urban-e.aq.upm.es.Visited on 12-08-2016 18:25
Barata, A. C. M., Lisboa “caes da Europa”: realidades, desejos e ficções para a cidade (1860 – 1930). Lisbon: Edições Colibri – IHA/Estudos de Arte Contemporânea, FCSH – Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2010.
Corradini, S., Morucci, F., Livorno between preserving port identity and future challenges. Portusplus, 3. (2012)
Demoulin, P., Port information center as an essential instrument in reconnecting ports and citizens. In 12th International Conference Cities and Ports. Le Havre: AIVP. 2010
Dooms, M., Integrating “triple P” bottom line performance and the license to operate for ports: towards new partnerships between port cluster stakeholders. In Y. Alix, B. Delsalle, & C. Comtois (Eds.), Port-City Governance (pp. 55–76). Cormelles-le-Royal: ems – Management & Societe. 2014
Ghiara, H., How to communicate the port today to build the port of tomorrow ? The port center Activities in Genoa. In 13th AIVP World Conference Cities and Ports. Le Havre: AIVP. 2012
Ghiara, H., Demoulin, P., & Marini, G., Port Center: to develop a renewed port-city relationship by improving a shared port culture. In Y. Alix, B. Delsalle, & C. Comtois (Eds.), Port-City Governance (pp. 233–246). Cormelles-le-Royal: ems – Management & Societe. 2014
Guillain, S., Relazione Finale. Dibattito pubblico sullo sviluppo e la riqualificazione del porto di Livorno. Livorno. 2016
Ircha M C., Social License for Canadian Port, PORTUS, n. 25, Year XIII, Venice, RETE Publisher. 2013
Morucci, F., Bicocchi, J., New port identity between global and local. The case of competitive development of Livorno. Portusplus, VI(6). 2016
Merk, O., The Competitiveness of Global Port-Cities: Synthesis Report. OECD Publishing. Paris, 2013
Musso, E., & Ghiara, H., Reshaping the economic landscape of Port Cities. In J. Alemany & R. Bruttomesso (Eds.), The Port City of the XXIst Century. New Challenges in the Relationship between Port and City (pp. 87–101). Venice: Rete. 2011
Schubert, D., Seaport Cities: Phases of spatial restructuring. In C. Hein (Ed.), Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks (1st ed., pp. 54–69). New York: Routledge. 2011
Sessions, G., The Deep Ecology Movement: A Review. Environmental Review: ER, 11(2), 105–125.,(1987)
Van Hooydonk, E., Soft values of seaports. A strategy for the restoration of public support for seaports. Antwerp: Garant. 2007
 Among these authors we can find for example the work developed by Bird, Hayuth, Hoyle or Meyer. All of them have explain the evolution of the relation between port and city and the port-city interface, often linked with the economic cycles.
 For example in the case of Lisbon we can find texts from journalists and writers from the end of the 19th Century or beginning of the 20th, such as Castilho or Proença, that complained about the options taken in the port development plan and how they affected the relation between the city and the river (Barata, 2010)
 It is generally accepted that the first major change in the port-city relation took place during the industrial revolution, when many port development projects took place forced by the improvements in the maritime technology. Also in this period is when the first port authorities were founded. Another important change took place during the 1960’s, when the container, invented in the 1956 by Malcom Mclean, started to be a universal cargo forcing changes in the ports layout. In terms of legislation the most recent example is the international ISPS code, which implies that the port areas must have restricted access and have to be separated from the surroundings by a wall or fence.
 Aldo Leopold was the first author to mention the idea of an ecological conscience in his book “A sand county almanac” from 1949. In his work, the author claimed a change in the worldview, from an anthropocentric perspective to an ecocentric one, being the man part of nature and not above it. This work, along with the book “Silent Spring” from R. Carson, published in 1961, inspired what can be known as the “Age of ecology” (Sessions, 1987).
 Documents from European projects such as: the “plan the city with the port” initiative, the SUDEST and CTUR projects, both integrated in the Urbact program, and the “People around ports project” from which the “Code of Practice on Societal Integration of Ports” from ESPO resulted. During the same time span the AIVP (Association International Ville et Port) also published several documents mentioning the topic of social integration of ports.
 The port festivals of Hamburg (Hafengeburtstag) and the Rotterdam (World Port Days) are two of the most well known events of this kind. Both attract hundreds of thousands visitors and the port is in the center of the celebration. Another sort of example could be the port run in Valparaiso or Porto, or the music festivals in Hamburg (Elbjazz) or Las Palmas (Temudas).
 Although not technically a Port Center, it fulfills a part of its mission and is an example of cooperation among several local institutions.
 The exhibition is formed by different stations and a central media table. The stations include a beamer, a white screen and a movement sensor. This sort of technology can be easily moved and adapted to other location in case the Port Center has to move.
 Regional Law 46/2013