Why ports matter for resilience

Communities globally depend on resilient, low carbon ports to prosper. With our partners, we are exploring opportunities for resilient, system-wide, transformation through the lenses of decarbonisation, technology, the environment and port cities.

Why ports?

The interconnectedness of ports to multiple infrastructure systems means they are acutely well suited to the Resilience Shift approach of tackling whole-system resilience.

This system complexity also mean they can act as a perfect model for what ‘good looks like’ for building resilience within other highly integrated infrastructure systems.

Exploring ports resilience

The resilience of ports is characterised by the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand and/or recover rapidly from disruptions, with the aim of ensuring continuity of services and movement of goods to, from and through ports.

A host of interdependencies linked to supply chains mean that failure of any link in the chain can have a direct impact on the food security, safety and wellbeing of populations, as well as directly affecting a local economy and its businesses.

For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit the Port of New York and New Jersey, saltwater intrusion took out electrical equipment, power transformers and control systems, and power outages halted commercial activity for ten days, with some terminals out of business for longer.

Hazards such as acute and chronic physical climate risks and earthquakes can damage or destroy port and shipping company assets and disrupt operations, potentially affecting costs, revenues, and regional and global supply chains.

Effectively managing both acute and chronic risks would enable ports, and interconnected infrastructure systems to not only rebound from shocks and stressors but to ‘bounce forward’.

The current impact and opportunities for ports

Ports serve as critical linkages between global economies, handling nearly 90% of internationally traded goods. Maritime transport also emits around 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The interdependency and interconnectedness of the global maritime trading system means only a coordinated effort from across the whole supply chain can produce impactful change. As daunting a prospect as this can be, it also creates a big opportunity for impact through innovation.

The Resilience Shift’s 2019 Ports Primer demonstrated that ports, and associated stakeholders can take actions now to build resilience to existing and evolving risks. Several of these actions are “low regret” measures that yield benefits under current conditions as well as a range of future scenarios and have relatively low costs compared to the potential benefits.

The Resilience4Ports approach takes this further, focusing on three significant long-term disruptors to the sector: decarbonisation, technology and innovation and port communities and the environment.

By bringing together stakeholders from across the global ports value chain, Resilience4Ports can generate a framework that can become a leading global example of the transition to a carbon neutral world by mid-century. This would bring more resilience and security to supply chains in the face of an increasingly uncertain future while protecting the health and safety of local populations.

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