greta marini

Strategic Advisor, Port City Community Affaires and Project manager, Port Center Network
AIVP, l'Association internationale des villes portuaires / The Worlwide Network of Port Cities

What is the purpose of Port Centers ?

Greta Marini, Strategic Advisor, Port City Community Affairs and Project Manager,
Port Center Network

Greta Marini leads the Port Center Network, an initiative that stems from a meeting between the AIVP and the Port Centers of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Genoa. Since this meeting, the AIVP, whose mission is to improve cohabitation between ports and cities, has decided to promote this city-port integration tool within its global network.

Port Centers provide a unique opportunity for people to better understand port activity and issues related to globalization and economic development. They are also excellent places to initiate exchanges and dialogue among the public, professionals and citizens.

Montreal and five other port cities (Antwerp, Ashdod, Genoa, Le Havre and Livorno) that have a Port Center or a Port Center project ratified the AIVP’s Missions Charter of a Port Center in 2014. Five other ratifications are under discussion this year (Guadeloupe, Dublin, Houston, Dunkirk and Transnet South Africa).

The charter defines in 10 points the basic challenges and objectives of Port Centers (explaining the port, promoting port-related trades and professions, projecting the port’s image, experiencing the real port, learning through the concept of ‘edutainment,’ adapting to the public, engaging the port community, developing a Port Center in synergy with people involved in the region’s heritage and culture, assisting in the sharing of experiences).
Why does the perception of incompatibility and incomprehension often exist between a city’s residents and its port?

Port cities all have something in common: their history is intimately linked with the birth of their port. In the past, residents were close to port and maritime action. With the arrival of the container and the implementation of more and more stringent safety and security regulations, the port has become an abstract object, something unknown and inaccessible. Today, citizens mainly see the perceived constraints that port activity brings: congestion due to heavy traffic, limited water access, nuisance problems near terminals … yet ports are major socioeconomic players for their region. They are crucial to the entire consumer goods logistics chain and the supply of raw materials. This is a reality that is often unknown, leading to non-acceptance that we can resume as follows: we cannot like what we do not understand.

How are ports and cities working to better cohabitate?  In particular, what must ports do to improve city-port relations?

This is a reoccurring question at the heart of issues discussed at AIVP conferences. We must consider the Port City territory in its entirety. To do so, all players – local communities, port authorities and economic communities – must collaborate in order to guarantee a consistent and global vision based on the sharing of resources and infrastructure. But collaboration cannot end there. Today, it also means being open with residents and citizens. Now more than ever we must make people aware of current and future issues. It is also important that we continue to make younger people more aware of the jobs that are available in the maritime and port industry, a sector that has difficulty recruiting. There are so many jobs out there when you also take into consideration services linked to logistics, finance, cruises, etc.

Community outreach is a feature of corporate social responsibility. What are some of the best examples of community outreach by ports on an international scale?

We must recognize that American ports are way head when it comes to matters of social responsibility. Using social networks to engage different communities living near a port has been part of their communications tools for more than 10 years now. The Port of Long Beach holds board meetings that are open to the public. Numerous ports offer educational tools to schools and teachers. A Port Center is a great tool to better perpetuate this social integration and prepare future generations.

There is much talk now about these Port Centers. In June 2014, the Port of Montreal ratified the “Missions Charter of a Port Center” during AIVP Days, held at the same time as the annual general meeting of the Worldwide Network of Port Cities in Genoa. More recently, the Port of Montreal has proposed a restoration project for its Alexandra Pier and Iberville Passenger Terminal that would feature, among other things, an Interactive Port Interpretation Center.

a) What are Port Centers? b) What is their role?  

A Port Center is a space that is dedicated to the better understanding of a port and its issues. Through permanent and temporary exhibits, information programs and on-site visits, it gives the public the chance to discover an often-unknown territory. Its role is to bring together all of the players from the port city toward a common message of sustainable development and transparency. The Port Center plays an indispensable role through a type of ‘edutainment’ (education + entertainment) approach that promotes dialogue with various publics: schools, students, tourists, seniors, etc.

What are some of the best examples of Port Centers internationally?

Havencentrum Lillo in Antwerp and EIC Rotterdam are among longstanding Port Centers with more than 25 years of history. Above all, they cater to a school audience and young people who are in training. Each Port Center has its own specific character and must naturally take into account its local environment. As such, newly created Port Centers such as those in Genoa (2009) and Le Havre (2013) have also opened up their doors to families, visitors and tourists while continuing to pay specific attention to students. The examples of the Port of Ashdod Visitor Center (2010) in Israel and the Port of Melbourne Educational Information Center (2006) are also very interesting. Ashdod welcomes close to 45,000 visitors per year, 80% of whom are students.

What must the Port of Montreal take into consideration for its proposed Port Center?

The Port of Montreal must ensure that its Port Center is a place that reflects the reality of the port within its territory. It must be a place where citizens can learn and exchange in order to better understand the port. By doing so, it will become the port’s best advocate.