Seaports as a Drivers for ‘Blue Growth’

The port, as an infrastructure of maritime services has evolved its functions over the years to become a complex logistic node within the multimodal chain of freight transport. Ports in the entire world are playing significant role in development of trade and economic growth as the ports are border points to connect different markets through maritime transport so it add value to the surrounding regions by the provision of significant economic and social benefits. Indeed, ports are the backbone of the transport network, without which the worldwide economy could not exist in its present form and if we cumulate all economic activities depending on sea (Blue Economy) than millions of people are directly or indirectly employed in this domain that generate billions of dollars as turnover but now a days, transport advantage, time of trade, assembly hub under global value chains, technology advantage, and home-market effect are the main factors contributing to the emergence of trade and act as a catalyst to growth and which now make Asia a new competitive emerging market.

However, in the age of globalization, policy makers usually focus on large ports and neglect small and medium-sized ports which underestimated their potential to harness blue growth so, there exist a dire need of technology to intensify the performance of port and blue growth in order to kick-start the untapped potential of oceans, seas and coasts for economic growth and job creation and by sparking the international competiveness and resource efficiency through maritime sector which act as an alternate economy and as a crucial driver that promise welfare and prosperity of nations. But, this require long-term planning by realizing the fact that, potential can only be completely realized if more effective and coordinated steps are taken to integrate the environmental, economic and social aspects of ocean management so, there is a need to intensify the initiatives in many policy areas related to oceans, seas and coasts to facilitate the cooperation between maritime businesses and public authorities across borders, sectors and stakeholders while ensuring the sustainability of the marine environment so, to keep up the rapid pace of growth LDC’s should adopt digital technologies for their ports through initiating policy actions which transform their ports into smart ports. In doing so, they connect and converge the physical and digital worlds (i.e. machines, devices and humans) with an objective to apply such novel digital technologies to optimize economic performance and use of energy by reducing the consumption of resources. Although, it is obvious that, seaports rely on large transport and logistics companies when it comes to the development and implementation of innovative technology applications. Since major transport companies, such as Maersk, are already intensively investing in digital technologies that are regarded as the enablers for the digital transformation in the context of Industry and Logistics. It is important that small and medium-sized ports also take the opportunity to apply these novel technological solutions in order to integrate themselves in a sustainable way into the global supply chains. If adequate opportunities are not identified and exploited, competitive disadvantages will arise in the long run, which will be difficult to catch up.

The development of ports into smart ports can be differentiated by five stages: (1) the port has no automation at all, (2) includes individual automation, (3) all port-involved stakeholders aim to integrate their systems to achieve better communication, (4) the port and the hinterland players are connected through one single digital environment, (5) each port is connected to its environment, and all ports are connected globally with each other (i.e. smart port stage). Therefore, in the final smart port stage, the port will be completely connected via a communications network and fully integrated in its environment (all stakeholders of the industry) as well as with other ports and logistics actors around the globe. Deep roots lie in the fact that ports are the central hubs and nodes in diverse supply chains, their actions within change management have enormous and far-reaching spillover effects. Ports as the essential and dominating players in the global transport system that connects innovative changes that will affect the entire economic environment. Hence, their failure or success has a tremendous and multi-layered impact on the different Blue Economy sectors, as well as on all further linked industries, and thus on the economic growth and prosperity in the corresponding regions. This also implies that the digital transformation in ports requires the comprehensive inclusion of clients and stakeholders, since ports are still service providers.

But Ports are not the only factor that intensify blue growth. Harnessing blue growth will demand Blue justice for sustainability of our oceans. Yet, as energy prospectors, biotechnology companies, deep-sea mining companies, fisheries corporations, and investment companies race to capitalize on ocean-based resources, substantial risks can arise for both people and the environment. The dominant discourse that frames blue growth as beneficial for the economy, for developing nations, and for coastal community’s risks downplaying both the uneven distribution of benefits and the potential for substantial social harms. Indeed, civil society organizations, small-scale fisher organizations, and academics alike have been sounding the alarm and trying to draw attention to the social justice implications of rapid and unchecked development of ocean resources so, it is concluded that ‘blue justice’ must be incorporated to have true blue growth which includes recognitional, procedural, and distributional concerns that needs to be at the core of the blue growth agenda. In order to minimize social harms and maximize benefits, human well-being and environmental sustainability must be prioritized alongside economic profits.

The author is MD IRP/National Coordinator of Blue economy/Faculty Department of H&SS, Bahria University Karachi

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