As part of our efforts to chart the future of maritime, we turned to Miami, an innovation capital dealing with the effects of climate change.    


A long-standing hub for the cruise and shipping industries and for real estate business, Miami nowadays speaks of itself also as the leading international US city, ahead of New York. According to the Kaufmann Foundation, for two years in a row, it has been the leading US start-up hub, beating Silicon Valley. With one of the fastest growing economies in the US, Miami is an urban innovator, having, for example, introduced tax-funded, free transportation on rails.   


While this reads as a fittingly glistening story for the decidedly maritime Sunshine State, a dark cloud hovers over it. Miami and South Florida are also Ground Zero for threats posed by climate change. During a discussion on Smart Cities at the World Strategic Forum, Miami-based urban studies theorist Richard Florida called attention to the “climate-based gentrification” that has become a reality in Miami.   


He was right to do so, as Miami’s higher ground – home to many traditionally poorer neighbourhoods – is experiencing a property boom. Developers are buying up land, because Miami’s sea level is expected to rise by 30 to 90 centimetres in the next forty years. With figures like that, no one knows where the coveted waterfront will eventually end up. In the meanwhile, roads must be raised, walls erected, and land developed.   


Framework for analysis  

Miami exemplifies some of the dynamics that our global analysis on the future of maritime seeks to understand. Beyond that, SEA20 is not only about comprehension but also action.   


The time for a more thorough accounting of our analysis and efforts will come later. At this stage, we would like to share a few thoughts on what we have detected in formulating our study and in early conversations.   


Is the port part of the city? 

Some see the port as an industrial zone, which calls for a focus on security and standardised processes. Others believe that ports must be (re-)opened to the public, thus also reclaiming urban waterfronts. 


How can we channel the forces of urbanism into the world of shipping? 

Our era is blooming with urban innovation and the possibility of improving city-living attracts experts from a vast array of fields. Lamentably few of these experts understand the maritime industries and the world they inhabit. 


How do you scale from anecdote to standard? 

Shipping is a competitive environment and spreading processes that give you an edge can be too much to ask. Yet, everyone agrees that something must be done about the inefficiencies and waste that still characterise too much of shipping. 


Will ships or humans learn to speak to each other first? 

The sharing of data is a sensitive issue. The kind of information that different parties are happy to share ad hoc with a trusted party, is not finding itself onto Big Data platforms. To address congestion at sea and on land, the interoperability of different means of communication must be improved. But how? 


How big should we dream? 

This may be a basic attitudinal question, as some like big visions while others prefer practical first steps. However, the tension between an industry that prides itself in pragmatic incrementalism and the role it must play in delivering a more sustainable future is palpable. Fortunately, this tension is also quite well understood. How do we build on it?   


Please note that this is only an initial framework for our analysis, and we are presently conducting interviews on these and other topics. We are also interested in hearing your feedback and ideas on the subject. Please do contact us with your suggestions via the SEA20 Twitter account.