Port-City governance. A comparative analysis in the European context.

Port-City governance. A comparative analysis in the European context.

This post is based on the paper to be presented in the AESOP YA Congress to be held in Ghent between 21st and 24th of March 2016.

1. Introduction

The relation between cities and ports has been thoroughly analyzed from different perspective in the last 50 years. We can find several investigations that try to explain the concept of port-city and the evolution of their interaction. Many authors, e.g. Bird (1963) and Hoyle (1989; 2000) among others, have developed spatial models that explain the different stages the relation between ports and cities goes through. Although the mentioned models present limitations they are widely accepted as the better abstraction of the evolution of the port-city interface. One of the critic that could be made to these schemes is the fact that not all port-cities fit the description (Kokot, 2008). However, in order to perform a comparative analysis, it provides a solid starting point. According to Hoyle’s model we currently find ourselves in the 6th Phase, when new links between the city and the port can be established. In this article we will not focus in the theoretical research or abstract analysis of port-city development, but rather in the actual governance praxis that we can find in Europe.

Stages in the evolution of port-city interrelationships according to Hoyle’s model (2000)

In order to better understand the role of the context, the different problems and solutions that we find in the European continent a research project was proposed. For this investigation a sample of six port-cities was chosen representing different realities: Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam, Marseille, Genoa and Lisbon. In this selection we can find some of the main ports of the continent, such as Rotterdam, but at the same time the Nordic capitals, like Oslo and Helsinki, in which the port is mainly relevant in the regional and national level. Also present are port cities that host the major national port for industrial activities but simultaneously tourism or passenger related activities, like Genoa and Marseille. Finally the port of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, that is suffering strong national competition and seen an important increase in the cruise sector.

Newman and Thornley (1996) have explained before the differences between the planning systems in the context aforementioned. These distinctions in the national legal framework and the particular physical and social conditions generate different  approaches and solutions for nuisances generated by port activities. These externalities are frequently very similar since the main harbor activities are very often alike. The PAs (Port Authorities)must have a policy to cope with the issues created by its activities in the cities since the positive effects of the port spread throughout the region but the negative externalities very often remain in the urban core (Ircha, 2013; Merk, 2013,2014). The combination between global problems and local solutions generates a diversity of management and planning practices worth observing and comparing.

The methodology for the analysis of the study cases was based on visits to the port-cities for periods of two weeks during which one of the main tasks was to perform semi-structured interviews to the responsible authorities in order to get first hand information. We were able to establish contact with the port authorities, municipalities, planning agencies and professionals.  In total 15 interviews were done.  At the same time we contacted the local inhabitants informally to better understand their perception of the port and the role this infrastructure plays in the social identity of the city. The methodology was completed with consultation of bibliography and official documents. For the analysis of the waterfront regeneration projects present in all the study cases we followed the method proposed by Schubert (2011), which includes quantitative and qualitative dimensions e.g. size of the project, start and completion dates, planning culture or location. Finally the time spent in each of the study cases allowed us to perform a photographical survey of the port-city environment and the interaction of the city with the water.

In the work developed by other researchers we can see that there are several key topics related with port-cities. For example in the series dedicated to port-cities from the OECD (Merk et.al. 2010-2013) the economic subject was predominant, although it also included information about the urban planning, environmental impact and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The waterfront regeneration projects are another issue that has been extensively studied by other authors, mainly with study case analysis, e.g. Schubert (2008, 2011) and Meyer (2003). Another important source are the guides of good practice developed over the last decade. Several of these publications have been supported by the existing internationals organizations focused on ports and port-cities, such as ESPO (European Sea Port Organization) the European ports lobby, the AIVP (Association Internationale Ville et Port) or RETE more focused in Mediterranean and south American  countries.

We were able to identify 3 main common topics in the port-city relation among the selected study-cases: (i) Institutional relations and role of the port authorities, (ii) physical interaction, including the port-city interface and waterfront regeneration projects, and (iii) the social relation between ports and cities.

2. Institutional relation – New synergies

In the European context most PAs follow the landlord port model [1]. Although the functioning scheme is very similar the political context of each port changes the governance capacities of each PA, being particularly relevant the national political system of each country. In the selected study cases we could also find one PA, Rotterdam, that has evolved from this model into a developer port (Vries, 2014) as we will later see.

We could find two main schemes for the national systems in the studied context, centralized and decentralized (Newman & Thornley, 1996). These two models for the national organization of the state create crucial differences between the European countries. In the particular subject we are concerned the major difference is related with the control of the PA. In the case of the centralized model the central government plays the leading role, in some cases being even the sole responsible for the PA board. This model is mostly seen in the South European countries, in our case sample we could find it in the cities of Genoa, Marseille and Lisbon. The main issue of this scheme is the fact that many decisions regarding the strategic planning and the allocation of economical resources are not taken in the PA itself, but in the central authority, usually the ministry or national department. In this decision making process the priority is given to the economical aspects of the port activity and the resources are mainly dedicated to the major infrastructural works. Regarding the relation with the city, the issue that might surge is the fact that frequently  it is not considered a priority and the investment in projects or activities that could improve the synergies is very often declined. During our interviews we could see that for example in Genoa the PA does not fully controls the revenues its activity generates, therefore does not have capacity to decided where the majority of the investment should be made. Regarding the studied cases that have this model, we also found that when the PA is mainly controlled by the central state, there is a certain institutional and emotional detachment between the city and this infrastructure. This was visible in the Marseille case, where, besides the strong presence of the central state, the complex configuration of the boards hinders the negotiation process.

The alternative on the other hand is more common in central and north European countries. In the study cases this option could be found in Rotterdam, Oslo and Helsinki. In the decentralized model the city has a prominent role in the control of the PA, very often being the majority shareholder in case is a semi-private company, like in the Dutch case (Vries, 2014), or even the PA is under the “umbrella” of the municipality. Previously, in some cases, this institution used to be a department of the municipality, like in Helsinki, but recent reforms to improve the management transformed them into semi-public companies controlled by the local authority. In these cases the state also plays an important role although not so determinant as in the alternative model. In some cases is also present in the shareholding and, in most countries with this system, is in charge of the national coordination of these key infrastructures. For the port-city relation the decentralized model is more beneficial since the city has  a stronger voice in the management decisions, they receive benefits from their shares and the urban issues in the interface are considered important as well.

The two models aforementioned condition the port-city relation in the institutional field, but are not the only elements that affect this interaction. Another issue is the land ownership. In the analyzed cases we found three types of situation. In the first scenario the port land is owned by the PA and it can be used as a resource for financing port projects in case a waterfront regeneration plan takes place. We could see this in Oslo, where the PA was able to finance the Sydhavna terminal through the revenues of the real estate operation involving the port territories near the city center. Another similar case would be Marseille. The GPMM (Grand Port Maritime du Marseille) controls the port land since the last legislation reform in 2008[2]. For this reason when the port released the area for the waterfront regeneration, it received a compensation from the planning agency.  Another situation regarding the land ownership is when the port territory is owned by the city. In this case there is a leasing contract which ends when the port activities are ceased in a certain waterfront section and the land is released without the need of a compensation. This scheme can be found in Rotterdam or in Helsinki. The Finnish capital can be considered an extreme case since the municipality is one of the main land owners in the city. In this case the PA only owns the constructions and machinery built in its territory. During the interviews the port representatives claimed that the land issue puts them in a disadvantage position in the case of a negotiation regarding urban issues. Finally we can find cases in which the land is owned by the central state and there is a standardized procedure for the ownership transition. We can find this situation in Lisbon, where the law[3] states that in case the port territory does not have a current or foreseen use it should be handled to the local authorities if there is a clear plan regarding its transformation for urban uses.

In the institutional relation we could also observe another issue that affects only certain ports. These are major infrastructure that even in the smaller cases include a vast extension of territory. In the sample we studied the size of the port varies from 125 Ha  of land in the port of Oslo to 12500 Ha  along 40 km of the river Maas in the case of Rotterdam. This dimension affects the territorial management that in some cases it includes several municipalities. The two most extreme cases among the selected port-cities were Marseille and Lisbon. In the French case the port territory is divided into two main locations, Marseille (east basin) and Fos (west basin). Besides the two very different realities, the port activity also affects a broad number of small municipalities, at least 3 communauté [4] from Marseille to Fos sur Mer (Bertoncello & Dubois, 2010) that demand a sit in the management board. The negotiation with so many stakeholders, each one with very different priorities and development goals, is considerably complicated. In the Portuguese capital we found that the port limits with 11 municipalities. In this case each one has a different relation with the port authority and different openness towards port activities. These issues that could seem subjective might affect the port development. In the Lisbon case one of the factors that influenced the decision of the new container terminal location was the political relation with the local authorities[5] .

Another issue that affects this relation is the fact that the PA is not the same as the port community. Therefore, the concept or agenda of the official institution is not always welcomed by the companies, workers, unions and other individuals or organizations from the port. In some cases, mainly Genoa and Marseille, we noticed how this diversity of actors might difficult the dialogue and in some cases delay important reforms. In general terms we could see that the port communities are not so open to change, particularly if it is brought from outside the port. The PA plays a crucial role since it has to properly explain the necessary change and convince this very resilient community to accept it.

In the investigation we were also able to understand the importance of the negotiation process necessary between all the involved stakeholders. In port territories very often we find other institutions besides the port authorities, such as railway companies, road authorities, customs, public transport companies, cargo and ferry terminals, etc. In all the study cases the negotiation and willing to dialogue was crucial for the urban and port development. For these negotiations the existence of dialogue platforms, sometimes linked to a project, was considered to be a useful approach.


3. Physical relation – Interface and Waterfront regeneration projects – Dialogue and negotiation

In the selected study cases we could observe how different sorts of urban projects in the waterfront are taking place or have been developed in the past. Since these port-cities have been studied previously by other scholars into more detail, we will only mention the main aspects of them, specifically the most recent developments.

3.1 The interventions

3.1.1. Helsinki

In Helsinki, after the relocation of the industrial port in Vuosaari, several urban development are taking place that will change the relation of the city with the water. Particularly relevant are the ones in Jatkasaari and Kalatasama. In the first one we shall also see the interaction with port activities (Laitinen,2013), more specifically the ferries, that brought in 2015 10,7 mill passenger[6] and also a considerable figure of ro-ro cargo[7], approx. 25% of the general throughput (Merk et al. 2012).

© Adactive Ltd
Helsinki West Harbor Waterfront development (source: http://www.hel.fi)

3.1.2 Oslo

In Oslo the Fjord City plan is being developed since 2000, when the municipality chose to implement the urban strategy focused in improving the contact of the city with the fjord rather than the one more harbor oriented (Kolstø, 2013; Gisle Rekdal, 2013). This decision was also very representative of the different types of relation that cities have with their ports, not always considered an identity element. In this case the dialogue and negotiation has played a crucial role, since the land, as mentioned before, is owned by the port. One of the most important features of the plan is the new coherent vision for the waterfront. In the case of Oslo the new promenade along the urban shore plays an important role, since it is the link between the different areas, that go from new port terminals in Sydhavna in the south to the new centralities in Bjorvika. The plan will proceed with the development of Filipstad and Vippetangen. These sections of the waterfront will require more negotiation than in previous parts since there are port related industries operating there and the solution for connection with the urban tissue implies not just the port but also the railway company.

3.1.3 Rotterdam

The case of Rotterdam presents two main examples for waterfront interventions, Kop van Zuid and Stadshavens. The first is entering its final stage and is an example of “port out-city in” type of project. In this case a port brownfield was transformed into a high standard mixed-use district. The clear gentrification we can see it was considered positive, being one of the goals of the project, since the city needed greater variety in a dwelling market dominated by social housing (Daamen et al., 2015). The second intervention could be considered a model for the future. Its scale and complexity is greater than other cases since it implies an area of 1600 Ha, of which 600 Ha of land (Vries, 2014) with many active industries. This last section of the port inside the highway ring began to be discussed in the year 2004, with an initial approach similar to the Kop van Zuid. In 2007, before the world financial crisis, it was clear that the scheme could not be replied and that a different strategy was necessary (Daamen,2010; Vries, 2014). The model changed from a “port out-city in” approach to a real coexistence among port and urban uses. The industries are considered to be important, particularly innovative ones related with the port, and the transition will be developed in a slower rhythm, with a more flexible implementation agenda. The housing program will be built in the areas that allow a compatible use. This case is considered to be very innovative since, as mentioned before, the project no longer takes place in a port brownfield, but in a active port sector. The integration can hardly be achieved, but the coexistence between port and city can be a reasonable goal.

3.1.4 Marseille

Marseille is also undergoing an important urban transformation. After the industrial crisis of the 1970-1980 the city went into a process of social and physical degradation, unemployment rates grew considerably, the lack of private investment caused a degradation of the urban tissue with several brownfields and the productive model did not evolved from the previous scenario. The port, as in many other cases, was no longer the job provider it used to be. At the same time the city gained a negative reputation. To invert the negative development tendency the central government decided to act by implementing an urban regeneration plan in 1995, the Euroméditerranée (Bertoncello & Dubois, 2010; Martin, 2015). The operation was destined to change the image of the city and its productive model, with a new CBD where several industrial brownfield used to be, near the urban port. The operation required the cooperation of all the involved actors, including the GPMM.

One of most interest facts about this case for the port-city relation is the vertical integration of port and urban activities in several key projects. Terrasses du Port, Silo d’Arenc  and in the future the J1 Warehouse show the compatibility of port activities with cultural, service or shopping programs. Besides these specific projects the process also allowed the city to regain an access to the sea in the J4/MUCEM section. Another important element was the flexibility of the plan, since the construction was only developed when a high rate of occupancy (70%) was assure, avoiding the risk of empty buildings and the possible degradation. Most importantly, the commitment achieved was translated into the city-port charter, a document that summarized the negotiation process and granted the presence of the port in the urban core, easing the acceptance of the project by the port community, not always opened to change. The plan is still ongoing and in the next years it should start its second phase, this time without affecting directly port territories.

3.1.5 Genoa

The case of Genoa presents a different reality from the ones discussed previously. In the Italian city currently there is no waterfront regeneration project in the classic meaning of the concept, i.e. acting in a port brownfield to generate an urban tissue near the water. This sort of intervention already took place in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s and in the early 2000’s, in always linked with a big events policy (Gastaldi, 2010, 2013). The particularity of the Genoese context is the need to intervene in the active port, to give answer to specific technical issues and, in the process, use this opportunity to improve the relation of the city with the port and the sea. The Blue print project developed by Renzo Piano is a conceptual plan for the east section of the port territory focused in reorganizing the shipyards industry, improving its infrastructure and implementing a better distribution of the existing activities, which include a yacht club and water sports. Simultaneously the exhibition fair district, outside the port boundaries, should also be affected by this plan, since it also requires an intervention to invert its current degradation process. The project plans the development of 11300 m2 of housing, 25 000 m2 of tertiary activities and 12 000 m2 of commerce in the sector focused in the urban regeneration[8]. This figure is relatively small when compared to the previous cases, which also shows the different scope of the project. One of the main features of the plan, as we can see in the image, is the creation of a new blue buffer, i.e. a water channel separating the city from the port.

Genoa Blue print. In the image we see the water channel following the line of the old city walls. (Source: Official document of the project)

3.1.6 Lisbon

In Lisbon the most important waterfront regeneration project took place in the late 1990’s, the regeneration of a port brownfield in the east part of the city for the EXPO 1998. After the event the area suffered several changes to adapt to its post-expo use, hosting a new business district, several housing projects and key cultural infrastructures. The main critic to this project was that it created an island of new urbanity disconnected from the existing urban tissue (Ressano Garcia, 2011).  In 2007 the general plan for waterfront interventions was published, in which the future use of riverfront areas and port territory to be dismissed was described. This plan was developed in the strategic level and the partial projects were developed in a closer scale. The economic crisis that affected the world economy, and particularly the Southern European countries, burst short after the release of the document and several project there hosted suffered significant delays, being developed only today. In this period the absence of activities in the released areas increased the negative image of the port, although the port itself was not responsible of the situation. The importance of temporary uses was clear in this case, since they could have allowed an appropriation of the space by the inhabitants that later on might ease the integration.

3.1.7 Synthesis table with the dimensions of Schubert model

tabla Shubert-7 copy copy
Dimensions of waterfront (re-)development for comparative perspectives, adapted from Schubert (2011). In the case of Lisbon there is no current major waterfront regeneration project.

3.2 Conclusions of the physical relation analysis

3.2.1 Contracts

One of the elements that are most relevant for the waterfront regeneration projects is the situation regarding the contracts with the existing companies. The majority of the PA, as we have already mentioned,  follow the landlord model, therefore there are companies developing their activities in the port territory which have made an investment based in a long term commitment. These contracts are usually signed for several decades and imply considerable compensation sums in case they are broken. In the waterfront project they might form an impediment for the implementation of the plan. We could find this issue in several cases. In Oslo there are operating firms in Filipstad and in the silo in Vippetangen. In Rotterdam there are several companies with long-term contracts in Merwerhaven, Eemhaven and Waalhaven, that in case they had to be relocated the necessary compensation could affect the outcome of the project[9]. One of difficulties of acting in the active port is the issue of respecting the contracts, in this context the flexible planning and negotiation skills might prove to be determinant for the success or failure of the project.

3.2.2 Agencies

The waterfront and the port-city interface are a very specific situation, the issues affecting this part of the city are very particular and the solutions applied in other locations of the urban tissue might not work here (Hoyle, 1998). At the same time in this context the municipal authorities deals with another institution managing a vast territory, the port authorities, with different priorities and goals, that counterbalances the negotiation process. In order to find solutions very often an specific planning agency is created. In the analyzed study cases we found several agencies, frequently linked with a project, instead of a steady organizations meant to follow different plans. In Rotterdam the Stadshavens evolved to be a dialogue and coordination platform after the approach to the project changed (Daamen,2010; Vries, 2014).

In the case of Genoa we found precedents of these sort of initiatives, created by both sides of the relation. For the port plan the PA established an agency for the development of the port Masterplan. This new office counted with the collaboration of world renowned architects and planners, e.g. Rem Koolhaas, Solá Morales and Bernardo Secchi, to provide new ideas for the port-city interface (Boeri,1999). Later on another agency, the Genova Urban Lab, was created to solve the existing urban issues, among them the relation with the port. The synergies created in the process have helped to improve the dialogue between the municipal and port authorities.

In Marseille the Euroméditerranée was created by the national state with the scope of the urban regeneration of the city. The participants in the new public agency were also the GPMM, the urban community, the county council, the regional council and the municipality. The agency forced a dialogue almost inexistent until that moment. One of the greatest achievements of this initiative has been the connection between the national and the local decision makers. This agency is linked to the project development and its destiny is to disappear when the plan is finished. However it has already left a document that should work as guide for the future of the port-city relation, the “city-port charter”.

The other cases have not developed an specific waterfront agency, but in certain moment have established joint venture dedicated to specific projects, such as the Frente Tejo in Lisbon, focused in three major public projects and later extinguished.

3.2.3 Two tendencies

Waterfront projects have been studied by several authors since the pioneer interventions in Boston and Baltimore in the 1960’s. Ever since we have seen an evolution in the development models. In Europe we could until now find several generations of waterfront revitalization (Schubert, 2008 and 2011). The first one exemplified in London, the Canary wharf, contrasting later with what took place in Barcelona or Genoa where the public space and leisure had the dominant role. Later the focus changed to mixed- use and housing very often linked with a landmark cultural project, following the example of Bilbao.

In the studied port-cities we found two main sorts of waterfront revitalization plans. In the Nordic countries the concept has followed what we have already seen in other locations e.g. the Netherlands. The relocation of the port industrial harbor created the opportunity of a waterfront project. In Oslo the new port terminal in Sydhavna has been developed with the revenues from the Oslo Havn KF, which also benefited from the real estate operations . In Helsinki on the other hand the decision of moving the industrial port to Vuosaari released a considerable space for new districts in the city.

While in Oslo the free market law prevails, therefore high standard housing for high income class, in Helsinki the role of the municipality as landowner allows a greater social mix in the new city districts in the waterfront. The composition of both social structures might provide in the future different perceptions of the public space and the urban environment by the water.

The second type of waterfront intervention is the one that acts in the active port territory, as we see in Rotterdam and Genoa. In these cities the plans are not limited to port brownfields, but propose the reconfiguration of the active port, considering at the same time the urban needs and the harbor related activities. In this cases the interface between both realities changes and technical needs from the port are used to improve the synergies with the city. When comparing both we could say that Rotterdam takes the concept further since the transformation is not physical but also social and economical. The RDM campus is one positive example of interaction between city and port in the educational sector, in the boundary between both territories (Aarts et al, 2012). This sort of plans could be considered a new generation of waterfront regeneration projects since they offer a new approach to the port-city reality. The Euroméditerranée plan in Marseille has elements from both, since this operation has not altered significantly the configuration of the port territory and only in a small section the PA has released area by the water. The main innovation was the coexistence of port and urban activities, as we have seen in several projects.

Plan of the Euroméditerranée project. In the lower section we see the part handled by the PA to the city for the development of the Mucem and Villa Méditerranée. The PA also agreed in shrinking their urban border in order to allow the creation of the Boulevard du Littoral. Source: Euroméditerranée presentation

The waterfront interventions have clear development stages (Schubert, 2008). Starting with the abandonment of the area and relocation of port infrastructure, to the emergence of a port brownfield, later proceeding to the implementation of plans and its revitalization. In the last decade we have already seen that the process was starting to change, since the real estate development were proving to be economically very convenient. The pressure to the port to move it mains infrastructure to another location was not only due to the technical and logistic needs for more space, but also from the different urban stakeholders. We might have achieved a new stage, the waterfront intervention no longer happen after the port released the area, but rather take place in the active port. At the same time also the model of intervention has changed in these cases. If previously the main goal was to develop green public spaces, cultural venues or mixed-use and housing developments, what could be named the “beauty waterfront”,  now it seems we have an alternative “productive waterfront” model, where the industries are considered important for the city and the effort has to be made for the compatibility and coexistence between the port and the city. This evolution in the waterfront projects and the dangers of the previous model, more focused in housing and leisure programs, were already detected by other authors, e.g. Chrarlier (1992), who named it “the dockland syndrome”, Bruttomesso (2009) and Ducruet (2013), who considered a mistake to remove all the port activities from the regenerated waterfront, denaturalizing it from its original function.

4. Emotional relation

During the study case visits and analysis we were able to observe a third dimension of the port-city relation, the interaction between the citizens and the port. Until very recently the PA’s in general terms had not considered the importance of the public image and the communication with the inhabitants of the city where they were placed. Several scholars have already studied the negative image of the port, e.g. Hooydonk (2007), but the responsible authorities did not considered it an issue for their governance until recently.

Regarding this topic one of the key concepts is the SLO (Social License to Operate). As explained by Dooms (2014), 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. This subjective dimensions are often difficult to measure. In port-cities the SLO is not achieved easily since, as we mentioned before, the cities that host the harbor have to deal with the majority of the negative consequences of the port activity. In order to grant this license, the ports have to look for values that go beyond the usual port arguments regarding their economic impact, jobs, tons of cargo, etc. The soft values of seaports have in this context a key role. They are defined by Hooydonk (2007) as “the non-socioeconomic values which include among others historical, sociological, artistic and cultural sub-functions that form the soft-function of seaports”. In the selected port-cities these soft-values were presented in several ways, from education to heritage to cultural or communication initiatives.

During our research we observed that the different actions taken in this field could be organized in four main categories: education, communication, heritage and social agenda. Besides these key issues, the matter of the port as an identity element was considered to be transversal to all subjects. The problem of the urban identity in port-cities has been studied by several scholars, e.g. Hooydonk (2009) Warsewa (2011). In the concerned port-cities we were able to see that not all of them that host a port consider themselves a port-city, or the port as a key element of their identity. We can mention Oslo or Lisbon for example, in which the citizens and the authorities acknowledge other features as more important for their identity. In the Norwegian case, as stated before, the fjord has a dominant role, the people are more related with the natural element than with the artificial port landscape. In the Portuguese capital the same happens with the Tagus river. Although is very clear how the port activity and development has affected the character and morphology of the city, the inhabitants are not able to relate with the port, sometimes even considering it an impediment to a more fluid relation with the river.

In the other cases the port is considered an important characteristic for the collective image of the city. When we observe the different cases is clear that this key infrastructure does not has the same weight in the identity of each city. The role the port plays in Rotterdam cannot be equal to the one in Helsinki. However we have detected that there might be a growing detachment towards the port. For this reason the need to improve the social relation is clear. In some cases the goal is to strength the role of the port, in others, to create a social relation with it. Therefore the four categories above mentioned have to work jointly to achieve the desired result.

4.1 Education

The relation with the educational institutions has been one of the fields where the PA have made the greater efforts for the social integration. In all the visited port-cities the PA had organized school visits to the port facilities for groups of children of different age. In another level the collaboration with the universities is also very frequent. In Marseille the PA participates in workshops with the architecture faculty. In Rotterdam the cooperation with educational institutions goes beyond visits or workshops. In the RDM campus the start-up companies focused in port activities give the students the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge. The education programs are also being use to deal with another issue, the fact that to younger generations the port is no longer seen as an attractive place to pursue a professional career.

Regarding the issue of understanding the port, an specific infrastructure can be found in some port cities, the port center. This space is focused in explaining the port to a broader audience, particularly children and teenagers, to allow the inhabitants to regain a sense of ownership of the port (Marini et al., 2014). Very often their exhibition and educational activities are complemented by boat tours where the students can see what they have learn before. In two study-cases, Rotterdam and Genoa, we could visit the port-center. Both cities have this kind of centers[10], although the one in Genoa has been closed since 2014. There is a Port-Center Network organized by the AIVP which coordinates the relation between the different institutions. In the future is expected to find more centers in the different ports. In some port-cities we could also find maritime museum that often have a section dedicated to explaining the port.

4.2 Communication

In the paper “Lipstick on a Gorilla” (Van Stiphout, 2007), we could read that the port is now a reality that must be explained. The communication has been another field in which we have assisted to important changes in recent years. The use of social media to explain the port and interact with the inhabitants has become a regular activity. Most PAs have a communication strategy but often does not reach the targeted audience. The port of Rotterdam has been active in many channels to spread the news about the port activities. They produce a free newspaper and have an online TV channel, an initiative we can also see in Hamburg[11]. Another useful strategy is the information signage, where the port and its history can be explained to the inhabitants. In Oslo the information strategy in the Fjord City project was particularly effective since it was linked to the waterfront promenade project. The possibility of joining a coherent urban vision with user friendly information boards proved to be useful. The port history is explained where the current waterfront regeneration projects are being built. The explanation of the transition could help to develop an emotional connection with the port heritage and improve the port identity role.

4.3 Heritage

The next category where we can find soft-values strategies is the heritage. In old port areas we can often find harbor machinery, cranes and warehouses. During the field trips we could see the different role this heritage has played in the port regeneration projects. In Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam and Genoa we could see the cranes working as sculptural elements in the public space. The use of warehouses and other buildings like silos is also frequent. In Marseille the Silo d’Arenc was refurbished into a cultural venue, keeping the port circulation underneath. In Genoa the congress center is the old cotton warehouses. In Rotterdam, in the Katendrecht district, we should see in the near future several projects in industrial buildings take place, which could allow a mixed use of the space. In the same city we can also find the historic harbor associated with the maritime museum. In this space, besides the cranes and boats we can also see the workshops where they are repaired, allowing a relative coherent atmosphere. The use of heritage to connect with the history of the port is one of the most effective and accepted strategies. In case the buildings or cranes are kept, is important that they are integrated in the new urban plans but with the right context, otherwise, they might be isolated elements losing their strength as a whole.

Real Estate development in Katendrech. In the future the relation with the industrial heritage might be tighter than what it is today, passing the musealization and integrating it in every day uses (Source: http://www.fenixlofts.nl/)

4.4 Social agenda

Finally, the last type of strategy is the social events for the port integration. The open door days and port festival, like the ones in Rotterdam, Helsinki or Lisbon constitute the typical example of this sort of action. In most guides of good practice they are mentioned as an effective method of bringing people to the harbor and rising the interest of the general audience for the port issues. These sort of event might be characterized by a certain folklore and detachment from what really a port is nowadays. Nevertheless they do attract attention and must be complemented with the educational programs and infotainment from the port-centers and maritime museums. Besides these venues, the port also can be active in the other events, such as the city marathon, concerts or exhibitions, that put the focus in the port, or the port can work as background. This way, the harbor image is introduced in the life of the inhabitants, what could lead to a broader acceptance of its presence.

All the strategies aforementioned are correlated, the cultural venues are often associated with the port-centers which can be placed in port heritage buildings. The soft-values can be explained in different ways but their effects in the general mindset cannot be measured from one year to the other. The successful cases that use these strategies have been applying them for the long term results. However, it is important to have a realistic idea of the perception of the port by the citizens by performing studies, like the one from Lisbon in 2007[12], where the actual image of the port is evaluated. The effects of these policies could lead to higher acceptance of the port.

In this article we have not focused in the environmental policies followed by the different PAs, although is clear they are the first priority regarding the coexistence with the city and CSR. This is a broader subject to be dealt in another article, but we can notice how important they have become in the different ports we visited. The control of the different pollutants using sophisticated sensor system is an usual practice in the European ports. At the same time there is a constant dialogue with the responsible authorities for an effective control of the nuisances and the companies operating in the port. In another dimension we can also see how the new terminal or port expansion projects have environmental concerns regarding the fauna and flora. In the Maasvlakte 2, in Rotterdam, the creation of the breakwater reused material from the original Maasvlakte. The new port territory in Vuosaari is placed in a Natura 2000 reserve, therefore the nuisance had to be reduced to the minimum. For this reason the sound barrier in the east border is a wall made with concrete blocks that allows the integration of vegetation to reduce the impact of the port.

5. General Conclusion

After analyzing the different study cases one of the original assumptions proved to be correct, it is not possible to achieve a real physical port city integration, only a sustainable coexistence (Bruttomesso, 2011). The current technical requirements and security limitations will constantly hinder the full integration that belongs to the early phases of Hoyle’s model. In this case the description of Hoyle’s 6th phase might be correct, since we did found new links between the port and the city, and in the future they might even be reinforced due to the economic development associated with port industries and port-clusters.

In the selected port-cities we found common problems to all of them, e.g. environmental issues, traffic associated to port activity or the barrier effect. However, the physical, political, emotional and institutional context plays a key role in all the cases, requiring specific solutions for the mentioned general problems. We also found that the abstract models proposed by several authors and the rankings do not fully express the reality of the port or the complexity of the port-cities.

The two existing schemes regarding the national governance, centralized and decentralized, can affect the relation between the port and the city, particularly in the institutional level. These differences can later be seen in the effort the PA is able to do in order to improve the interaction with the city. The allocation of resources controlled by a central authority might difficult the investment in the disclosure of the soft-values of seaport, what could in the long term increase the positive synergies with the inhabitants.

In the waterfront we have seen how the intervention model has evolved, although in the selected study cases the plans developed in the 1990’s and 2000’s are currently under development. The new strategies are focused in intervening in the active port, in some cases generating new types of interaction between both realities. The need of a port-city combined strategy affects both the physical and economical development. One technical improvement might cause an spatial redistribution, which  could imply a new access to the water or new associated industries. This change, that in this article we took the freedom to name “from beauty waterfront to productive waterfront”, might introduce a more balance relation and better acceptance of the port presence. At the same time this sort of plans could help to maintain the port identity, providing a certain variability to the necessary coherent vision for the waterfront.

Finally, during the analysis of the study cases, it was clear that the role of the PA has to go beyond the management of the port territory and activities. The port has to assume its role as constituent element of the urban structure and collective image. The disclosure of the soft-values of seaports by the PAs should help the port to achieve greater acceptance by the citizens. If we consider that very often the PAs are politicized institutions it seems reasonable that an investment is made for the improvement of its public image and obtaining the SLTO. We have seen that the full physical integration between port and cities will not be possible, but the social integration of the seaports should be considered an important goal to be achieved by the PAs.

[1] According to the AAPA (American Association of Port Authorities) at a Landlord port the PA is responsible for the basic infrastructure which later leases to private operators for the different port activities.

[2] Law n2008-660 4th of July 2008

[3] Law DL 100/2008 of June 16 2008.

[4] The term communauté de communes refers in French to a federation of municipalities. In this case the three communauté in question gather 27 communes. On January 1st of 2016 a new administrative body, the Métropole d’Aix-Marseille – Provence, was created which gathers the aforementioned municipalities and Aix-en-Provence. This new institution should easy the territorial management and the relation of the municipalities with the port.

[5] Source https://www.publico.pt/economia/noticia/governo-pede-avaliacoes-ambientais-para-avancar-com-novo-porto-no-barreiro-1670498

[6] Source: Port of Helsinki, http://www.portofhelsinki.fi/port_of_helsinki/port_statistics

[7] Ro-Ro is, as defined by the AAPA, Short for roll on/roll/off type of cargo. This sort of cargo is not lifted inside the ship with cranes, but rolls on and off it, since it goes in cars, trailers or other type of vehicles.

[8] Source: Official project document and website: http://www.comune.genova.it/content/il-blueprint-10-punti

[9] Another case where the importance of the contracts situation can be seen is Hamburg. For the 2024 Olympic proposal, that finally was rejected by the citizens in a referendum, one of the bigger challenges was the figure of the compensation for the companies operating in the Kleinen Grasbrook, port territory, where the Olympic village was supposed to be built.

[10] The port of Rotterdam has two Port-Centers: the EIC, placed in a central location in the port territory with the scope of general explaining the harbor and the port activities, and the Futureland center, in the Maasvlakte 2, focused in explaining the port expansion project.

[11] Both PAs have channels in the online platform YouTube

[12] Sustainability report from the year 2007, available in: http://www.portodelisboa.pt/portal/page/portal/PORTAL_PORTO_LISBOA/AUTORIDADE_PORTUARIA/RELATORIOS_PUBLICACOES

Conference Presentation


AESOP YA – Jose Sanchez – final2


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The Marseille Experience

The Marseille Experience

During the last two weeks we stayed in Marseille. We were able to get to know the second city of France and analyze the port-city relation. Although in terms of national importance the hegemony of Paris is undisputed, Marseille has developed along the centuries a strong identity. Nowadays aims to become the symbolical European capital of the Mediterranean Sea, a title to discuss with other port-cities, such as Genova, Valencia and mainly Barcelona. When we talk about this French city we must always have in mind the considerable dimensions of it, is the second city of France by extension and it plays an important role for the regional and national economy.

For the analysis of the city we worked following the same approach like in previous cases. We were able to visit the historic center, were the city has its roots as port-city, the expansion areas and the port territories, both in Marseille and Fos. As we mentioned in the last post, the port was the reason why this city was created, it has clearly influenced the evolution of the urban core and it has played a major role in its history. During our stay we were able to see several cultural institutions in charge of divulging the identity of the city. For example we can find the Museum of the roman docks or the Museum of the history of Marseille, where the evolution of the city is explained, from the Greek roots of Massalia to the XXth century. In its collection we can identify the role the port has played and how in some cases it has conditioned the urban development. Another relevant museum is the recently open MUCEM museum of the European and Mediterranean civilizations. This institution is very relevant for our research since is placed in what it used to be J4 area, a former port territory that was freed up during the Euroméditerranée operation. Finally we can also visit the Musée de la Marine et de l’Économie, where we will find a collection of maritime artifacts and ship models. This museum is placed in the Palais de la Bourse, where the chamber of commerce is based.

Vieux port, the original location of the port before the industrial expansion in the XIXth Century. Nowadays a marina of considerable size and one of the main tourist attractions. Author: José M P Sánchez
Vieux port, the original location of the port before the industrial expansion in the XIXth Century. Nowadays a marina of considerable size and one of the main tourist attractions.
Author: José M P Sánchez


For the development of the research was important to meet with the local stakeholders, in this case we met with Mr. Alexandre Sorrentino (AS), Director of Strategic Foresight and International Relations of Euroméditerranée. We also were able to speak with the persons in charge for the port-city relation of the Grand Port Maritime du Marseille (GPMM), more specifically with Ms. Régine Vinson (RV), Head of the City-Port Department and with Ms. Claire Hallé (CH), responsible for the partnerships and synergies of the same department.

We also tried to speak with the Agam (Agence d´urbanisme de l´agglomération Marseillese) but unfortunately we received no answer to our contacts.

The relation between the city and the port


In the case of Marseille the port still is a strong identity element, both in the urban structure and the collective memory. When we walk around the city we perceive the presence of the port, mainly in the older areas or near the cost. The influence that the maritime activities had in the formation of the city is clear. Many of the neighborhoods we find along the coast, that now are included in Marseille, used to be fisherman villages. In the city center one of the main leisure area is the Vieux-Port were the people meet and we find several restaurants and bars. Although this is clearly one of the main tourist attractions still is one of the main meeting points. At the same time many important landmarks, like the fortresses, are placed in the coast. What once used to be the city´s defense structures are now places to visit and to enjoy the view of the sea and the port.

In general terms the locals acknowledge the port as an important feature for their identity. In many families the previous generations were somehow connected to the port, when it used to employ hundreds of thousands instead of the 40 000 today (still though a considerable figure for the region). However most inhabitants have a bucolic image from the port, as it happens in other port cities. As RV mentioned, currently the majority of the locals do not know exactly how the ports works and the romantic view remains in the collective mind. At the same time the people demands more and better access to the water. Even if the current situation is better than previously, is not easy to cope with a closed area by the water. For this reason, among others, the public image of the port has been affected. If we consider that the jobs in the port decreased and that the majority of the port activities take place out of sight, we might understand that is difficult for the people to relate with the port.

Marseille is particular in this aspect since the relation of its inhabitant with the port might vary depending on the area of the city we study. The majority might have the watered image we described, but we can also find people, mainly in the north part of the city, that have a stronger opposition to the port. There are two main reasons for this difficult relation: (i)the fact that the port developed where several popular beaches were and(ii) that is in this area where we can find the majority industrial activities in port territories. Some of the local elderly people remember the previous state of the coast, before the port expanded its east basin. This clearly has an impact in the way they perceive the port, especially for the ones whose job or pension does not depend on the harbour activities. The second reason is probably the one that might harm the port image in the future the most, since the port location will not change. The recent Port-City charter, that manifests the institutional acceptation of the port in the urban core, says that this area will remain as the industrial core of the east basin. Therefore the focus will have to be putted in other soft strategies to find a way to improve the relation.

antes y despues
Coastline evolution.: beginning of the XIXth Century vs send of the XXth.

Finally we have to understand that the port of Marseille, as mentioned in the previous post, has two main locations, in Marseille and Fos. This two areas have very different characteristics regarding their activities, their scale and the way they relate with the territory and the local populations. We focused in the city area, the east basin, since the main focus of the research is the port-city relation and is also where we can find the most interesting challenges and the new strategies. However, the fact that the port is placed in two different areas and that in Fos, where approx. 95% of the port territory is, the expansion is apparently easier than in the urban tissue of Marseille, has given arguments to the port critics. They mention that the port could expand in Fos and disappear from Marseille. This reasoning clearly does not consider the characteristics of the port activities and the consequences it could have in terms of employment and urban development.


In order to better understand the relation we must first explain that the port of Marseille is different from the cases explained previously. In the European context we can find two main types of national organization regarding some major infrastructure like ports, centralized and decentralized. The ports we have analyzed so far were mainly city owned or the city had the leading role, mainly as shareholder in case it is an independent corporation. We could see this in ports like Rotterdam, Hamburg or Helsinki. This sort of state model is more common in the north/central European countries. In the southern countries we find a centralized model, where a state authority is responsible for the organization and control of the Seaports. This organization is more common in France, Portugal, Italy or Spain. In the current case we see that until very recently all ports remained under state control. This situation changed in 2008 and only the main ports considered of national importance remained under state control, changing their name to Grand Port Maritime, like Le Havre or Marseille. This change also meant the port evolved to more than the managing institutions; they changed to be the effective owners of the port territory. The port authorities gained a certain independence although always under the state control.

The different approaches regarding the national organization has, in many cases, conditioned the institutional relation between city and port authorities. When we spoke with the representative from the GPMM they told us that one of the difficulties they found was that the Municipality still sees often the port as something external to the city, a body that does not belong to them. This issue might possibly limit the city-port synergies that could be developed.

Regarding the institutional relation is also important to understand how the GPMM is managed. The port has two boards: the supervisory board and the development board. Both council are important for the port functioning but is the supervisory board the one that has decision making capacities. As we have said before the state is the main player in the GPMM, it has 5 out of 17 representatives in the main board. Besides the central government also the representatives from other territorial divisions, regional and municipal scales, have a sit in the board. Finally also the unions and several professionals with know-how relevant for the port are represented. Besides the boards there is also a managing team in charge of the operational duties in the port. The complexity of the port happens also in the territorial level in which it has to relate with up to nine groups of municipalities, each one demanding presence in the boards and looking out for its own interests. This universe of stakeholders and different bodies hinders a possible fluid relation with the different municipalities and at the same time adds complexity to the negotiation process and strategic vision. When we speak about major infrastructure a general vision is needed, the coordination between short term and long term strategies is crucial as it is that every player in the different level understands its role in the development process. In January 2016 another institution, the Métropole de d’Aix-Marseille-Provencewill start working to rule the Aix-Marseille metropolis in several topics.This new organization might give the GPMM the opportunity to discuss to on a larger territorial scale. The development of the port will be one of the arguments to study by the new institution, but the port governance will remain with the current management model, led by the state. In the near future we shall see if this new organization can improve the coordination or if it will add confusion to the current situation.

When we study major ports that affect a large territory, as is the case of the GPMM , we might have to choose to focus the analysis in one of the several concerned cities. In this case the obvious choice was Marseille. The port also has to prioritize the municipalities that are more relevant for its operation. Marseille and Fos are obviously the ones the port has to related more. Regarding the institutional relation between the city and the port in the case of Marseille, we can say that in last 20 years there has been a considerable evolution. All the interviewees agreed that since 1995 the relation has changed but also that there is space for improvement. We can identify two main stepping stones in this process, the Euroméditerranée plan and the City-Port Charter.

Marseille and GPMM East basin before the Euroméditerranée Source: Euroméditerranée presentation
Marseille and GPMM East basin before the Euroméditerranée
Source: Euroméditerranée presentation

Both elements here mentioned will later be described in further detail. It is important to realize that the Euroméditerranée operation is an ongoing process since 1995 that created a framework for the second element, the City-Port Charter. The main characteristic of both is the cooperation between several institutions with different priorities and goals, in some cases almost incompatible from an initial point of view. It is also important to notice that a certain pressure from the state was needed in order to impulse the project that later on would create the context for the charter.


Marseille was at the beginning of the 1990´s a city with many problems. The traditional port related industries had suffered with the several crisis of the second half of the XXth century and the shipyards were struggling with the competition of the eastern rivals. The typical industries of the region no longer were providing the jobs they used to and the unemployment rate was particularly high when compared with other French cities. At the same time the investment in the city was decreasing what gave as result a degraded urban environment. The city gained fame for being unsafe and the population was decreasing. One of the main issues was also the fact that the development model of the city was not updated to cope with the change in the industry. The education rates, regarding professionals with higher studies, was poor when compared with other French cities (still is nowadays). There were no real alternatives to the industry that used to be there. This issue can also be observed in other port-cites, in which the port was the job creator. When the crisis hits these cities the adaptation period is critical and very often the port workers, who have work in the port for generations, are the first victims. For centuries the work in the port did not required any sort of high-education. This meant they were particularly exposed to the shifts in the economic situation. Nowadays the reality has changed and more often the ports need qualified staff, which is sometimes hard to find.

We have to consider that for a country the size of France it can be very problematic to have its second urban agglomeration in a precarious state. It’s the first port of the nation and it should work as counterpart to balance the territorial development outside Paris.

The state, along with the municipality, decided to stablish a plan to reactivate the city. The strategy was focused on the urban redevelopment of specific areas near the city center and the waterfront. The operation was named Euroméditerranée, somehow expressing the subjective goal of redeveloping the city into a symbolic capital of the Euromed region. The project was considered an operation of national interest and a specific urban planning agency was established. The goals were mainly three: (i) to lead an urban renewal operation with an initial public investment and a clear strategy;(ii) to transform the public lead into a real estate and economic development, working with the private investors but under the rules established by the public organization and, finally, (iii) to improve the international image of the city, that had been seriously affected in the previous decades.

The organization, established in 1995, was led by the state but also included the city of Marseille, the Urban Community, the County Council and the Regional Council. Besides the main goals quoted before, one of the other purposes of the plan, as pointed out by AS, was to improve the relation between the city and the port. As mentioned before, the plan includes acting in port territory, therefore the cooperation between the different entities was necessary. The majority of the land the Euroméditerranée considered were industrial or railway brownfields. The exception was the area in the waterfront that belonged to the GPMM and, as it was stated by the RV, it was an active part of the port, therefore the negotiation was needed.

The urban renewal operation has a significant scale, is considered to be one of the main regeneration projects in Europe. Besides waterfront land another areas within the urban core were considered, like the Rue de la Republique, the railway station St Charles and industrial buildings in its surroundings. In the image we can see the main figures of the plan. It is also important to clarify that the goal of the project is not the gentrification of the area. Although some of the new buildings can be considered of high standards with expensive rents, the operation also includes 25% of housing with controlled pricing.

Main figures of the Euroméditerranée Source: Euroméditerranée presentation

Finally another important aspect is the financing of the project. The Support of the state is crucial in order make it viable, being in charge of 50% of the initial investment. The acquisition of the land is also made by a state agency, the établissement public foncier (EPF). The Euroméditerranée organization is in charge of managing the process between the land acquisition and the private development. The goal of the company, formed by several public partners, is not to make profit but to manage the operation and reinvest the gains in the city. The economic has proven successful since it has developed cautiously without creating an excess of plots for new buildings, or jeopardizing the operation during the crisis years. At the same time the new projects, whether they are for office or housing, are only allowed to proceed if they can assure the occupancy. This is also important since its avoids the creation of empty construction and the existence of negative degradation spirals.


When we asked the interviewees about the first phase of the negotiations both agreed that there were some initial difficulties. AS explained that there was a general misunderstanding about the scope of the Euroméditerranée. Many people and institutions thought that the goal was to push the port out of the city in order to get the access to the water and build several private marinas. This idea was also taken by the unions that fully rejected the plan even with protest, since it was seen as a threat to the port activities and, therefore, their jobs. RV and CH explained that for them was also not easy to explain the project to the port community since they also perceived the project as menace to their business. In an initial stage, as pointed by AS, the port was reticent to collaborate.

The new project demanded a serious reflection about the role of the port in the city. This necessary change in the general mindset happened along the negotiation process, particularly when the state directly pressured for an understanding. The agreement, in the early 2000´s, was only possible when the port administration and the port community were aware of the possible positive outcome. The deal was that the port territories would remain under their control, the industrial part of the port would remain active and that the other involved actors acknowledged the important role of the port in the urban economy. Another important factor was the fact that a solution was founded, which would allow the coexistence of certain port activities and urban ones. The port on his side should do two main things: first it should leave the space for the creation of the new boulevard du Littoral; second it should give the J4 quay for the development of the MUCEM and Villa Méditerranée. In exchange for the J4 area the port had to make a landfill and change the coast line nearby, between the J3 and J2.

City-Port Charter

The agreements aforementioned improved the cooperation and led to interesting mixed use projects and the City-Port Charter. This document, signed in 2013, was mainly the crystallization of the negotiation process described. One of the most positive aspects of this document is the fact is an official agreement, signed by eight stakeholders: the State (Bouches du Rhône prefecture) GPMM, Euroméditerranée, the PACA region, the county, the metropolitan area, The city of Marseille and the chamber of commerce. For this reason the compromise is clearer and stronger than other initiatives. In this new statement the importance of the port in the urban and regional economy was acknowledge and a commitment was made to respect its presence in the urban core, its East basin.

The City-Port Charter meant also the reorganization of the East basin until the year 2025 towards a new more compatible urban port. The port territory in Marseille was divided in three main areas: North, Center and South. In the North part, from the fishing dock until L´Estaque, the waterfront would be rearranged into a pole of leisure and tourism. The existing marinas would be maximized and some leisure facilities created. In the central area the industrial activities of the port would be respected and it would remain as closed area with no public access. The shipyards activities would be expanded with the reopening of the dry-dock 10, closed during recent years. The south part of the port would be dedicated to develop projects that allow compatible uses with the city. This change should allow a greater porosity and better access to the sea, although only visually. Example of this strategy are the Terrase du Port or Silo d´Arenc. Simultaneously the passenger and ferry activities within port territories would be reorganized. The terminals for the ships coming from countries outside the Schengen area would be placed in the central part and the ones coming from the EU would be relocated in the south part, where they could allow an easier access towards the sea.

South part of the East Basin, where the relation between the port and the city will change the most Source: Euroméditerranée presentation



Representative projects of the new era

In the south part of the east basin, where the port and the Euroméditerranée meet is where we see some of the most innovative buildings of the plan, that represent the new stage of the relation between the actors.

Main projects in the Euroméditerranée waterfront area Source: Euroméditerranée presentation


One of the first project of this group to be built was the Silo d´Arenc, placed in the north end of the first phase of the Euroméditerranée. This industrial building was reconverted into a concert hall with 2000 places and office area (4000 m2). In the ground floor the port activities continue to work, mainly allowing the cross traffic in the area. The ownership remains from the GPMM, although the majority of the investment, 30 mill€ out of 42, was made by the City of Marseille. The inside of the Silo has been rented to a partner for 50 years and since its opening in 2011 it has become one of the main concert venues in the city.

Silo d´Arenc Source: www.lacroix.com
Silo d´Arenc
Source: http://www.lacroix.com


The warehouse area formerly known as the J4 was one of the places where major modifications happened. This waterfront location placed in the south corner of the Euroméditerranée next to the Fort Saint-Jean was given to the city in exchange of a compensation in order to develop a new cultural pole and to give to the fortress a more noble context. In this area we can now find the MUCEM (museum of the European and Mediterranean civilizations) and the Ville Méditerranée, an International Centre for Dialogue and Discussion in the Mediterranean. Besides the new cultural facilities and rehabilitation of the fortress, the city has also gained an access to the sea. This is a very relevant aspect since from the vieux-port until L´ Estaque in the north the access to the water for the citizens is block by the port infrastructure.

MUCEM Source: Euroméditerranée presentation
Source: Euroméditerranée presentation

Terrasses du Port

Near the square of La Joliette a new mall has been developed. The particular feature of this building is the fact that allows the coexistence of the port activities under the commercial area, without compromising either of them. It opened in May 2014 with 52 000 m2 of commercial areas, 13 000 of terraces and 3000 parking places. The ground floor, excluding the entrance of the mall, is dedicated to the ferry terminal and existing port traffic, as well as the area for the passenger boarding near the quay. The project has been developed with a long term contract with the firm Hammerson. A call for proposal took place and the firm foruminvest won the bid who later would sell the project to current developer.

Terrasses du Port Source: www.hammerson.com
Terrasses du Port
Source: http://www.hammerson.com


The last building in the waterfront to be developed is the J1, a warehouse near the Place de la Joliette. This construction has already hosted temporary exhibition during the year 2013 when the city was the European capital of Culture. Since then the future of it is not clear. According to AS the decision about this building should have been reached some years ago, but so far the port has not agreed with the proposals that arrived, from possible partners such as the municipality. In the past it  was considered to relocated the port headquarters. Nowadays the GPMM is working to launch a new call for proposals for the building, following a similar scheme like in the previous cases. Regarding the physical configuration it should allow the coexistence of both port and urban uses, although the priority would be given to activities related with the maritime economy.

J1 Warehouse Source: www.madeinmarseille.net
J1 Warehouse
Source: http://www.madeinmarseille.net

 Second Act

The Euroméditerranée perimeter was expanded in the year 2007 towards the north. There are several differences when compared with the first part of the plan. In this new stage the port territories are not directly affected, therefore the negotiation between the institutions is less intensive. Another key difference is the fact that for this part they will have to cope with existing industries and there are local inhabitants that actually live within the perimeter. In the first phase the majority of the operation took place in brownfield, as we have already seen, with no need of affecting local population. This added difficulties will require a new approach. AS explained that they will work more in a small scale and the dialogue with the locals will be more active in order to allow a better transition and to accommodate the local interests. Also the financing of the project will be different. If in the first the state has been responsible for 50% of the funds, in this second stage this share will be reduced to approximately 20%. The program to develop will also be more focus in housing than in the first phase, during which the priority has been office area, public space and leisure and cultural facilities. Some housing project have also been built but it was not the main concern.

In the second act one of the most interesting aspects will be the development of the Mediterranean eco-city project. This plan will build housing units using what AS defined as “Low cost easy tech project”, so that high sustainable standards are reached without forcing big changes in the Mediterranean lifestyle. Another key project will be the Parc des Aygalade, which will take the place of the current Gare du Canet, a railway terminal for cargo. This infrastructure, necessary for the logistic operations related with the port, will be redeveloped combining it with the existing one in Mourepiane in port territory, to be later finally Terminal de Transport Combiné de Mourepiane . This change will not just replace one terminal but combine the two existing ones and improve the logistic chain, stimulating the rail traffic. For the port though, as mentioned by RV and SC, it might create problems with neighbors since it will intensify the industrial activity of the area. As we have seen the communities placed near the industrial port are probably the most critical towards the port location. New efforts will be necessary for the relation with this part of the city.

Euroméditerranée act 2 Source: www.euromediterraneeacte2.fr
Euroméditerranée act 2
Source: http://www.euromediterraneeacte2.fr

Coexistence strategies

In order to have a healthier relation with the inhabitants, the GPMM has developed a series of workshops where they try to explain the current development projects and listen to the complains of the locals. This has been one of the main coexistence actions the port has developed. The GPMM is aware that they have, as most ports, a relative negative image among the population. The communication strategies are improving slowly, however, the port community needs to understand that, if before there was no need to explain what they were doing, the situation has changed and now, in order to be accepted by the public, a certain transparency is required.

During the last years there used to be an open doors day, but apparently this initiative has ceased because of the economic impact it had. In other terms the cooperation with schools and universities continues, organizing visits and participating in workshops, for example from the architecture faculty.

In the present moment there is a small information center about the port in Fos, but we were not able to find it. In the future we might see a proper Port-center, what could give a significant boost to the public perception of the port.

The issue of public relation with the locals is also very relevant for the Euroméditerranée organization. AS explained us that initially the operation was better known outside Marseille than in the city itself. As we mentioned, during the first years of the project many thought it was a private operation that would end up gentrifying the area. This view changed mainly when the people started to see results, in 2013. Since then the public acceptance has increased.

Personal Opinion

The case of Marseille shows several strategies that have brought positive results for both the port and the city. Probably the most relevant issue for the ongoing investigation is the fact that the interaction in institutional terms has given a great leap towards the future. If twenty years ago the relation was harsh or inexistent, now we see that there is a serious commitment for a positive synergy. The existence of a document specifically focus in the relation between city and port and signed by all the stakeholders is a good example and could be followed by other cities. The Euroméditerranée operation meant a new beginning for this issue and presented the opportunity to reflect about it. Is very positive that the initial reluctance was overcome and an agreement was achieved.

The urban regeneration plan has proved to be very effective and with positive outcomes. Although the first phase still is ongoing at the moment, we see that the city has gained several important new places where it can relate with the sea. The projects before mentioned are good examples of alternative approaches to the necessary mix of functions in port-cities. The implementation of these new facilities are the result of the aforementioned negotiation process.

In this article we have focused in the urban interventions, but there are also several other initiatives by the GPMM regarding the relation with the territory and the environment worth knowing. For example the project Climeport, the geothermic central or the GIREL program. All these initiatives can be seen in the Guide of good practice from the AIVP.

Regarding the communication and the use of soft values, is where we think greater improvements could be done. If the port is aware of its relative negative image, it should consider developing a more effective strategy towards better explaining itself. Although is clear that the port is an important part of the identity of the city, it could be positive if it invested in a closer public image. The goal is not to have people walking around the containers but to pursue a larger identification of the inhabitants with the port and port community. The soft values, as we have mentioned in other posts, are an important asset for the port-city synergies and in the case of Marseille they could be better explored. The possible new port-center in the J1 warehouse could improve the relation. It has an appropriate location, in the city center but inside the harbour, and the context helps to understand the current and past importance of the port.

We look forward to know how the first stage of the Euroméditerranée will end and how will the second act develop. Marseille was identified by the French geographer C. Ducruet as a Maritime city, along with Lisbon and Izmir, according to the role they have in national structure and the importance of their port in the international logistic chains. These cities share several characteristics; we shall see if they can share solutions.

Oldest city in France: Marseille

Oldest city in France: Marseille

Marseille, Mediterranean port-city

The city of Marseille was created in the 6th century BC when Greek explorers met with the local tribes, in the north bank of today´s Vieux port, and decided to settle taking advantage of the natural conditions to stablish a port. The colonist from Phocaea named the new town Massalia. Later on, in the year 49 BC, Caesar conquered the city in the expansion of the roman empire. The name changed to Massilia and the economic activities focused on the port continued to expand.

Mediterranean sea in ancient Greece. Source: http://www.usu.edu
Mediterranean sea in ancient Greece.
Source: http://www.usu.edu

Few centuries after the conquer of Marseille the Roman empire started to decline. At the same time Christianity spread along the roman territories including this city. This change left several new buildings in the urban tissue, like the old cathedral or the St. Victor basilica.

During the first centuries of the first millennium, while the roman empire was collapsing, the city suffered several invasions, from tribes like the Visigoths, Burgundians, Ostrogoths and Franks. This instability affected the trade and consequently the port. Only under Charlemagne and its successor, in the 8th and 9th century a certain stability was regain. During this period it became part of the Kingdom of Provence . At the same time the Muslim invasion of certain territories, particularly the Iberian peninsula, did not allowed the maritime commerce to fully recover until the 11th century. Marseille regained an important role as port for the crusades and stablish itself as the door for the east Mediterranean.

The city continued to expand and the maritime activities had an even greater impact in the urban core. During the 15th century it was the main port of the Mediterranean Sea. Within its infrastructure we could find an important arsenal, but also shipyards. Along the middle ages and the renaissance, Marseille kept a certain autonomy although integrated in the kingdom of Provence. It condition of port city gave a certain power and rebellious identity. During this time, until the 17th century, the city was involved in several conflicts and suffered aggressions from different enemies. At the same time, and also associated with its port-city condition, it suffered outbreaks of plague that decimated the population.

The resistance of Marseille to obeying to a centralized power in France took the King Sun, Luis XIV, to come from Paris to lead its army and submit the city to his command. In order to stablish a permanent control, new fortress were built in the mouth of the port. More specifically the fort St. Jean and fort St. Nicholas. Simultaneously the new arsenal was built in the south part of the current Vieux-port. Another important urban changes were taking place during this period, the 17th century, for example the city expansion was being planned. This project implied the creation of a new north-south axis, including Cours de Belsunce and Curse Saint-Louis. This plan would start the urban expansion of the city away from the cost. Later on we could see this axis expand from Place Jules Guesde to Place Castellane, and further on to Avenue du Prado in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Expansion plan for Marseille in 17th century Source: <http://desinroc.free.fr/chrono2/LouisXIV.html
Expansion plan for Marseille in 17th century
Source: <http://desinroc.free.fr/chrono2/LouisXIV.html

At the French revolution the battalion from Marseille sang the “Marseillaise” for the first time, this song would later become the national anthem. The city and port started growing again after the 2nd quarter of the 19th century, when two important processes began, the industrial revolution and the rise of the French colonial empire. Along this century, as it happened in many other port-cities, the new technologies accelerated the rhythm in the port and increased the size of the ships. Simultaneously the second empire, as the French colonies were also known, meant more traffic for the city. The new activities and technologies demanded the expansion of the port. Between 1855 and 1863 we see the first port areas in the north side of the city, what is known as La Joliette and Le Lazaret.

The port would grew until becoming the 4th port in the world and one of the main industrial areas in France. At the beginning of the 20th century the famous transporter bridge in the mouth of the vieux port was built. Unfortunately it was destroyed during the WWII. In this period we see the rapid expansion of the port until L´Estaque, the natural limit of the basin. Before the WWI, took place the first discussions regarding the creation of a port outside the city area, to allow better expansion when necessary. The plans would be postponed due to the WWI and WWII that seriously affected the city and the its infrastructure. Particularly damaged was the vieux-port area, where the Nazis destroyed several blocks, up to 1500 buildings, for considering it a criminal neighborhood.

Pont Transbordeur Source:http://visite.marseille.fr/promenade_historique/le_pont_transbordeur.php
Pont Transbordeur

In 1964 we finally see the expansion in Fos-sur-Mer. This new territory would initially host mainly the petro-chemicals plants. Only later on would we see the container terminals and other activities.

During the second half of the 20th century Marseille would go through several difficult situations. Particularly complicated was the fall of the empire, that would bring to the city many immigrants. The city is well known for its multicultural society but in certain moments of its history it has also seen social conflict regarding the coexistence among people with different backgrounds. At the same time Marseille gained a reputation of dangerous and degraded city. During the last two decades we have assisted to several initiatives to change this situation.

Nowadays the city of Marseille is the second urban agglomeration in France, after Paris. It has a population of 850 000 inhabitants and almost 1,8 million in the metropolitan area. The port still plays an important role in the economy and the labor market. The city has stablish itself as an important tourism destination and is integrated in the PACA region (Provence, Alpes and Cote d´Azur) which is one of the most attractive regions for tourism and leisure activities. The physical geography is typical from this part of the Mediterranean, with an accidental topography, including mountains entering directly into the water with very few flat area.

View of Marseille Author: José M P Sánchez
View of Marseille
Author: José M P Sánchez

The Port

The GPMM (Grand Port Maritime de Marseille) is the 5th port in Europe and main port on France regarding tonnage. Also, if we consider containers, is competing with Le Havre regarding this sort of traffic. More specifically last year it had a traffic of 78,5 million tons and 1.2 million containers. One of the main characteristics of this port is the fact that the liquid bulk, mainly oil and related products, take a large share of the traffic, almost 70% in 2012. The GPMM also has a strong passenger traffic, both in regular lines and in the cruise industry. In 2014 it had a combined traffic of 2,5 million passenger, of which 1,2 million were from the cruise sector.

The port has its territory divided in two main areas, east basin in Marseille and West basin in Fos. In the section placed in the city we will find all the activities related with passengers, also ro-ro, container and short-sea shipping terminals. In this area we can also see the fishing port and the shipyards. In the west basin, 50 km away, is where the port has the majority of its land (95% of over 10 000 Ha). There we can find the petro-chemical refineries and a major container terminal, besides other industries related with this sectors.

Regarding jobs, the port of Marseille-Fos creates over 40 000 direct and indirect jobs. In 2012 the port had an direct and indirect impact of 3% of the GDP in the PACA region. From these figures we can see that the GPMM still has a notorious presence not just physically in the city, but also in the economy.

Port of Fos Source: http://www.marseille-port.fr
Port of Fos
Source: http://www.marseille-port.fr

Two of the main projects that we have seen in recent times related with the port are the Marseille-Fos 2XL and the Euroméditarrenée. The first one was the expansion of the container terminal in Fos. It started operating in 2012 after 5 years of construction period, and a cost of 400 mill. €. The future 3XL and 4XL are in consideration, but on the long term plan. The Euroméditerranée project took place in Marseille and it affected the port mainly in the south part of the east basin, changing the physical configuration of this area and the activities related with the ferries.

The waterfront  

The coast of Marseille has evolved considerably along its history. As we have seen the city was born near the current vieux-port and later expanded occupying a considerable territory. The first improvements in this part of the city we could see them in the reconstruction after the WWII. The vieux-port was the most affected area and the regeneration was urgent. Nowadays we can find here one of the main recreational marinas and mostly tertiary activities, such as leisure, offices and tourism. We can also find several housing areas, many from the reconstruction period. The typical image of Marseille is from this part of the city, with the different fortress creating a strong character that has also been used as attraction for the many tourist that visit the city. For the European capital of culture event, in 2013, there were several improvements in order to rearrange the traffic and create more pedestrian areas. Different facilities were created, such as the shading structure from Sir Norman Foster that has become a major attraction. The regeneration process should continue until 2020.

View of the Vieux-Port Author: José M P Sánchez
View of the Vieux-Port
Author: José M P Sánchez

The main second urban regeneration project that also affected the waterfront and the port is the Euroméditerranée. This project is very particular for several reasons. First of all the leading role is taken by the state, instead of the municipal authorities as we have seen in other cases. Second, the project is not limited to the waterfront area, but comprises a significant part of the city center. The main goal is its regeneration and the improvement of the image of the city. Included in the plan were for example the train station or industrial brownfields, unrelated with the port. Another important feature of this intervention is the fact that in some port territories the port activities coexist with the urban ones. Therefore the port still is part of the city and the strategies developed could be an example for other cases looking for new synergies.

During the next week we will interview several key actors of the process, we will get to know how it developed and what is expected for its expansion, the 2nd act.

When this post was being written the terrible attacks in Paris on the 13th of November were taking place. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and French friends. Together we shall rise and overcome the tragedy.