VARIOUS global port leaders are highlighting urgency in strengthening the ability of ports to adapt to various crises to ensure logistics continuity.
“With the growing risks linked to climate change and pandemics, it is important that ports should become key resilient partners for supply chain managers,” Spain’s Valencia Port Authority Aurelio Martínez said as he spoke at the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (Unctad) TrainForTrade Port Management Week.
“Crises like the pandemic have reminded society of the importance of port-based logistics for the safety and security of our global wellbeing,” he added.
According to Unctad’s analysis, during the Covid-19 pandemic, freight rates hit record highs, and they have again soared as the war in Ukraine disrupts transport logistics and causes port congestion which resulted in high prices of goods.
In addition, the Unctad also notes the consequences of climate change will increasingly hit ports worldwide, affecting the businesses and people who depend on them. This is especially true for island nations, which rely on ports for almost all trade.
“Disaster response and management plans always have to be included in the business continuity plans, and these plans have to be regularly updated,” Philippine Ports Authority Assistant General Manager Hector Miole said. “Traditionally, we would plan for the next 50 years, but in the changing environment, we need to have shorter terms for planning — maybe only 10 or 20 years,” he added.
Meanwhile, Spain’s Las Palmas Port Authority president Luis Ibarra suggested some sustainable strategy including using offshore wind power, more onshore power supply technology to help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions, and planting algae in the port’s waters to capture CO2.
“We are all adapting to new challenges and realities,” Ibarra said.
Overall, the port managers also agreed that advancing digitization and cybersecurity is also key to improving port resilience.
In addition to streamlining aspects of maritime trade, such as customs clearance processes, digital technologies allow ports to minimize human interaction while remaining operational in times of pandemic, but with appropriate digital safeguards in place.
“Covid-19 showed us the importance of having reached at least a certain level of digitization. Otherwise, many ports would have been shut down and the economy would have suffered even more,” Ghana Port Authority’s director general Michael Luguje explained.