This blog is a communal effort of the PortCityFutures members. It displays different types of content, such as reviews of articles, opinionated pieces, reactions on current events and many more. Most articles are co-written to ensure the incorporation of knowledge from different backgrounds and disciplines. Enjoy reading!
The role of port cities in building a sustainable shared future: The Union for the Mediterranean Action Plan for Sustainable Urbanisation
10 Aug 2020
Roberto Rocco, Carola Hein
The Mediterranean has long been at the heart of urban and rural development in all of its bordering countries. Sea-based trade and exchange has fuelled the development of numerous cities on the coast, on rivers and in the hinterland. Current challenges, from the climate crisis to migration, have put the Mediterranean again into focus. The COVID-19 crises shines additional light on the need for close collaboration in the fields of spatial and economic development, including port and port-related infrastructures. To provide a framework for sustainable and inclusive urban and regional development for the countries around the Mediterranean is the mission of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), an intergovernmental body that brings together all the countries of the European Union and 15 countries from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. On 22 May 2017, at the Second Ministerial Conference of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in Cairo, the UfM has enacted the “Union for the Mediterranean Urban Agenda” (UfM, 2017). Since 2018, a team from the Delft University of Technology (Roberto Rocco, Remon Rooij, Carola Hein) has elaborated an Action Plan for Sustainable Urbanisation around the Mediterranean for the UfM.
The Post-Covid Time: A Post-Normal or Pre-Environmental Time?
6 Aug 2020
The European Green Deal, discussed in a previous blog post, offers a wide range of climate policies and measures. However, due to the current pandemic, the European Commission and Parliament have delayed the Green Deal’s adoption. As of July 2020, the main topic preoccupying national leaders is the economic renewal of the European Union and consensus over the economic Recovery Package. These discussions are complex given the timing, the economic situation and the lack of convergence between actors. Moreover, they obscure the legal necessity to act upon existing agreements, from local to supranational levels, to mitigate environmental damage.
Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Mental Maps
28 Jul 2020
Imagine: You are asked to draw a port city from memory. What would you put on paper? Do you think of harbours? Water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships? If your drawing shows these elements, don’t be surprised. Sixty-five graduate students also took on the challenge. In answering: “draw the port city of Rotterdam by mind”, the drawings of the participants (fig.1) displayed exactly the above features. Of course, this makes sense. A port just happens to be a place on the water in which ships shelter and dock to (un)load cargo and/or passengers. A harbour is a sheltered place too, and in its nautical meaning it is a near-synonym for sheltered water, in which ships may dock, especially again for (un)loading. So, all the above linguistic lemmas are there and all these are connected to imaginable objects.
Challenges for city development and port activities after COVID-19: the Case of Montevideo
20 Jul 2020
Fernando Puntigliano, professor of Logistics at the Universidad Católica del Uruguay.
Montevideo is located on the River Plate, the river mouth of the 3440 km long Paraná Paraguay Waterway. The River Plate is the gate to the heart of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and the richest provinces of Argentina. This strategic location of the port of Montevideo is the main reason of the existence of Uruguay as an independent country, according to former President Lacalle Herrera of Uruguay. The territory was an area of dispute, first between Spain and Portugal, and later between Argentina and Brazil. The port was conceived by Spain as a logistic centre for the region. The local commerce was initially meaningless. In 1928, British diplomacy suggested a political solution to the conflict area by creating a new country named Uruguay. Access to the rest of South America remains a key activity today. Imports and exports to and from Uruguay represent still today less than 50% of the port activity.
Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Towards a Shared Methodology
13 Jul 2020
Yvonne van Mil, Vincent Baptist, Thomas van den Brink, Tianchen Dai, Hilde Sennema
The PortCityFutures team aims to study port city ecosystems and the concepts of ‘maritime mindsets, port city cultures and values’ from a variety of disciplinary angles. In our subgroup, consisting of four PhD researchers and one postdoc, we assess various mapping techniques (geo-spatial, socio-cultural and mental mapping) to move towards a shared research methodology. In a blog series under the title ‘Mapping Maritime Mindsets’, we will monitor, document and share our research progress on mapping port city regions, and especially address the theoretical and methodological issues that we face during the process. Moreover, we ask guest writers to reflect on related themes and projects.
The Shifting Values of Port Cities: Towards “what if histories” and “design fiction”?
9 Jul 2020
What if we had the chance to reboot and redesign our society? Who would have considered it possible that the current pandemic crisis offers exactly that opportunity? Within a matter of weeks, we have experienced a change in lifestyle that seemed impossible as a response to climate change a few months ago. The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting people and businesses hard. This is also true of ports and their surrounding cities. Attempts to protect people from a life-threatening disease have changed the functioning of such port cities around the world. In some, ships continue to deliver much-needed goods. But in others, they have become floating storage or laid up, upsetting the entire maritime system. Meanwhile, streets and public spaces are emptier than usual, with satellite images revealing significant drops in air pollution. While some people are working harder than ever—think of the medical professions—others have lost their jobs and their livelihood or even died.
Port cities as hubs of diversity and inclusivity: The case of Rotterdam
7 Jul 2020
This blog post was written for the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus magazine June 2020
Port cities are a particular type of territory and are often long-standing examples of resilience, bringing opportunities, wealth, and innovation to their nations and their citizens. They have developed at the crossroads of international trade and commerce and the intersection of sea and land. Flows of people through trade and migration have played a key role in their spatial, social and cultural development. Their strong local identities share legacies of diversity and cosmopolitanism, but also of colonialism and segregation. The Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou, Fujian speaks of the exchange between Arabia and China along the maritime silk road. Hanseatic cities stand as an example of far-flung networks with districts for foreign traders—think of the German merchants who established Bryggen, the German dock, in Bergen, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
A Guggenheim effect for Rotterdam South side?
29 Jun 2020
Rotterdam-Zuid, a district that has grown near and along with the port of Rotterdam on the South side of the River Maas, is lacking behind in terms of economic growth and prosperity compared to the city district on the North bank. In terms of unemployment, income levels, education performance, and value of real estate, Rotterdam-Zuid performs worse on key performance indicators than Rotterdam as a whole and scores lowest compared to Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, the three other major cities in The Netherlands. For years, a national pact of institutional stakeholders have made considerable efforts to improve this urban area and make it more livable and attractive. South is slowly but surely catching up, but arguably as a function of the development of the North (EVR 2020). The river is not just a physical barrier, there are also institutional barriers. What can the port city of Rotterdam do to involve ‘South’ and to realize its ambition for an inclusive and productive city? Does the South need a Guggenheim effect – a major overhaul through large investments in culture, such as done in Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum – to incentivize larger urban redevelopments?
Disruptions and the effects of covid-19 on city and port plans. Valencia
25 Jun 2020
Prof. Vicent Esteban-Chapapría
Protecting people's lives against the potentially lethal COVID-19 disease has changed patterns of life and working conditions all over the world. Self-isolation, lockdown and numerous restrictions have changed our lives. The situation is new and absolutely exceptional, with keywords being: UNCERTAINTY, RISK and VULNERABILITY, and in that order precisely. This raises the question: the current pandemic different from earlier disruptions? What would make it a major game-changer? It is necessary to know about earlier disruptive situations and to compare them with the current situation.
Researching Historical Entertainment Culture across Port Cities: Why ‘Pleasurescapes’ Matter for ‘PortCityFutures’
22 Jun 2020
‘Where people have fun, encounter happens. Where encounters take place, change begins. Are pleasurescapes in port cities Europe’s true driving forces after all?’
The tagline of the HERA-funded project ‘Pleasurescapes: Port Cities’ Transnational Forces of Integration’, which looks into entertainment spaces of European port cities throughout recent history, suggests that this research topic has been rather neglected up to now. The ‘Pleasurescapes’ project proposes to (re)discover this theme within a collaborative European framework. For a long time, historical research that dealt with port cities has favored traditional maritime-industrial perspectives in investigating these particular urban hubs. Over the past few years, however, more publications have come out that focus on the socio-cultural significance and legacies of ports, and that offer new, creative approaches to study port city identities and representations (see among others Van de Laar 2013; Mah 2014; Beaven, Bell and James 2016; and Milne 2016). The ‘Pleasurescapes’ project intends to further build on these research directions, while also incorporating a significant influence from the field of cultural studies, to put the spotlight on past public spaces of entertainment in European port cities.
Port City Culture - Culture(s) and Cultural Practices
16 Jun 2020
Port City Futures is an interdisciplinary group concerned with different aspects of the social and cultural dimensions of port cities and their technological and economic development. It brings together scholars from the humanities and a variety of technical and social sciences. However, what unites us is interest in culture, e.g. by questioning whether we can identify ‘maritime mindsets’ in port cities. But what is culture?
Port Futures in Postnormal Time(s)
8 Jun 2020
Stephen J Ramos
“Any useful idea about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.” In one of his three axioms, Futurist Jim Datour establishes criteria for how the process of future visioning must be ongoing and changing, with feedback loops that continually introduce new challenges that restart and revise the process. “The future cannot be predicted,” he continues, “because the future does not exist.”
Insights from the RETE/PortCItyFutures Webinar - Port-city scenarios during and after the Covid-19 - May 18th, 2020
2 Jun 2020
To what extent is the current health crisis detrimental for port cities, and how are different port cities reacting to this crisis? Researchers and practitioners from around the world discussed this question in a webinar co-organized by RETE and PortCityFutures held on May 18th 2020. (Blogs on the individual contributions are forthcoming on the PortCityFutures website). One of the main questions here was how to navigate between the paradigm of ‘never waste a good crisis’ on the one hand, and ‘business as usual’ on the other.
Measuring health in port cities
25 May 2020
Sarah E. Hinman
Urban public health is extraordinarily relevant currently, but health in port cities holds a critical place in history, too. Monitoring potential epidemics in port cities in the 19th century was critical to long distance trade. In 1878 New Orleans a sailor “jumped quarantine,” introduced yellow fever to the city, and sparked an epidemic killing thousands. Public health debates in port cities continue as shipping brings together people, goods, and foreign microbes. Air pollution from ships and industries affect the neighboring areas. The port city of Rotterdam is an ideal place to explore the impacts of port activities on health and environmental justice. Interdisciplinary research by Bachelor students at Leiden University College provides examples of methodologies and outcomes connected to health and inequality in Rotterdam.
The Port City’s ‘Cine-scapes’
19 May 2020
Cinema acts as a significant mediator between urban reality and the imaginary sensory experience of the fictive world. Viewing the city through the lens of a camera enables us to build new narratives. Films have captured port cities within the flows of, goods, people, and ideas, making them ever-present in shared memories, historical narratives and urban nostalgia. Cultural production plays a role in the on-going construction of local port cultures, whether films, festivals, music, literature, theater, advertisements, or events. Telling the story of the port city – its past, present, and future; its buildings and its people – contributes strongly to the creation of port city cultures.[i] The big screen can help viewers to perceive complex port city regions, learning from their history, understanding cultural values and developing shared urban narratives to tackle the upcoming challenges. In a broader sense, port city’s ‘Cine-scape’—to use a term coined by Richard Koeck,[ii] puts the cinematic approach to port cities into the spotlight.
Who owns the city after all? Can sea cruise tourism help develop Amsterdam as a ‘City in Balance’?
11 May 2020
The city and region of Amsterdam, together with the historical and cultural sights of the city, offers excellent facilities for ocean cruises, which contributes greatly in economic growth and employment. Meanwhile, a significant value conflict (Mager, 2020) exists among stakeholders. To deal with ‘over-tourism’ and maintain a ‘City in Balance’ (City of Amsterdam, 2016; Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019), since late 2010s the city has endeavored to take measures to reduce the number of budget travelers, and attract more higher-paying tourists (Aalbers & Sabat, 2012; Kavaratzis & Ashworth, 2007).
The future of port cities: thriving within the planetary boundaries
4 May 2020
The debates over the future of ports and port city areas have been largely dominated by the narrative of blue growth (e.g. OECD, 2019; World Bank, 2019). Promoted by large corporations and authoritative international organizations, this narrative promises to reconcile the imperative of economic growth and profit-seeking with the well-being of communities and the environment. This approach has led to technical solutions (such as robotics, more efficient wastewater treatment) and incremental fixes to become the key focus in sustainability transitions (Soma et al., 2018).
New Neapolis: A Creative Teaming Up of Port Cities
27 Apr 2020
In January 2020, Rotterdam-based artist Gyz La Rivière released a new film project, entitled New Neapolis, in which he connects his Dutch hometown to three other European port cities: Liverpool, Marseille and Naples. Grouped together, they form ‘New Neapolis’, building on the ancient name of Naples that meant ‘new city’. Following an earlier book publication of the same name, and accompanied by an exhibition, La Rivière conceived New Neapolis as a metropolitan league that turns the national underdog position of all its members into an advantage. Compared to the stately capitals London, Paris and Rome, New Neapolis builds on the international network of the port cities and their inhabitants’ traditional ‘can do’-mentality to strive for a shared, utopian future.
Maritime Mindsets of Rotterdam’s Port Communities
23 Apr 2020
Rotterdam is a major port city of The Netherlands, with a colourful history of trade, war and immigration. As the port of Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe, has largely moved out of the city, the City of Rotterdam aims to compensate for this with festivals, museums and other events to engage and strengthen the maritime mindset. This institutionalised and heavily funded approach is centred on securing Rotterdam’s reputation as a globally leading port city. There is more than a top-down intervention to construct a maritime mindset. Smaller communities near the port itself have their own. They are further from the main hub of activity and political centre, have less centralised funding and are not a priority in the City’s strategy. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story.
The European Green Deal: New Opportunities for Port Cities?
20 Apr 2020
With the European Green Deal made public last December, the new European Commission took the first steps to transforming Europe into the first climate neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal offers a wide range of climate policies and measures that directly affect European cities and citizens. Whereas port cities are high polluters and important economic concentrations, they are not mentioned in the European Green Deal as such. However, to make the ‘’effective and fair transition’’ that the Commission aims for, port cities could make a difference as they concentrate key economic and industrial facilities and are key to the EU’s long-term economic competitiveness.
Making the next port city of Rotterdam
16 Apr 2020
Amanda Brandellero & Maurice Jansen
The COVID-19 outbreak constitutes an unanticipated resilience test for our cities and societies. Resilience encapsulates the capacity of systems and societies to get back on their feet and to adapt to a new set of conditions, following major challenges or disasters. For port cities like Rotterdam, the current global shock triggered by the Corona crisis presents a number of challenges to ongoing transitions and global supply chains. To what extent can local-to-local supply and demand chains offer solutions to these challenges?
New recommendations from the Port City Futures Team and Port City Music on Spotify
9 Apr 2020
Yvonne van Mil
Port cities speak to the imagination of people around the world as special places where land meets the sea, where goods and people arrive or depart, and where cultures mix. Many artists including painters, directors, authors, poets, singers and songwriters are inspired by ports and port cities feeling attracted to the atmosphere, culture or ambiance of the port. As a follow-up to the blog by Hilde Sennema (posted on April the 1th, 2020) about different forms of port city culture, the Port City Futures Team made a list of music recommendations and favorite songs concerning ports and port cities. These include songs that glorify port cities such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, or ones in which the port serves as a symbol of freedom, romance, nostalgia, or desire, or yet others that include criticism of the working conditions of dockers, sailors or prostitutes.
Change of perspective: value-based deliberations for improved port-city relations
3 Apr 2020
Tino MagerIn the course of the 20th century, some port cities, especially larger ones, have experienced an increasing separation of their port and city areas. Not only are they spatially separating from each other; they also follow different agendas in economic, ecological and cultural terms. At times, communication between port and city can be severely impaired due to diverging interests, for example, when port and city leaders respectively pursue diverging agendas in terms of energy generation, for example from fossil or renewable sources. Port cities around the world face these dualities, some captured in the visualization of PortCityFutures. For the benefit of the larger port city region, they need to find answers that benefit both actors. A first step towards a shared perspective is through the development of shared values. As members of the PortCityFutures group, we argue that port and city actors can better negotiate, and find solutions for their differing interests, when they focus on underlying values.
Experience Port City Cultures from your couch
1 Apr 2020
During this crisis, you might already have received many suggestions on how to spend your time at home. The Port City Futures Team thought to make a small contribution as well by recommending our favorite cultural expressions concerning port cities. Being transported to those special places where the land meets the sea might be a welcome, yet educational, distraction. So stay safe, stay inside, and we hope you will enjoy our suggestions during this difficult time. We are also curious about yours: share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are Cities, Ports, and Port Cities Systems? From Optimizing to Co-Creating Resilience
26 Mar 2020
In the context of rising sea levels, “resilience” is a growing priority for many ports and cities. Resilience typically refers, as Olsson et al write, to a system’s ability to cope with stress. How much stress the infrastructures, institutions, and inhabitants of cities and ports—and port cities—can absorb is certainly an important question. However, there are limits to how far those governing and managing them can, or should, think of them as "systems". Perhaps the most important issue is whether or not what we call “society” actually functions like a system—or, put differently, the kind of “system” imagined by engineers, industrial ecologists, and others drawing on resilience theory to design spatial, institutional, and social measures. Social scientists, including anthropologists, have long criticized such thinking’s implicit functionalism: the assumption that we can break society into parts, with distinct functions, that when properly aligned can reach equilibrium. These theories lend themselves easily to managerial approaches: all one needs to do is optimize the system. However, they neglect how our societies often do not, in fact, fit neatly together.
Port City Resilience: (Re-)Connecting Spaces, Institutions and Culture
17 Mar 2020
Ports and cities and their surrounding regions coexist in a limited, shared space; today, they face multiple challenges, including climate change, energy transitions, digitization, or social transformations. These challenges require coordinated responses from all stakeholders: port authorities, city and regional governments, private and public actors, as well as NGOs and citizens. Historically, such collaborations are a trade mark of port cities around the world, their public and private stakeholders displaying great capacity for overcoming challenges meaningfully, forcefully and rapidly. Together, such stakeholders have dealt with a broad range of external and internal shocks to the advantage of both their ports and the neighboring cities.