International collaboration between maritime cities is a political necessity to make shipping more connected and sustainable, and creating an environmentally friendly maritime infrastructure will in turn become a critical interest for city leaders. Key marine cities are in the process of forming SEA20, a network of cities to lead sustainable maritime development and become the urban voice towards international regulation.
With 90% of world trade carried by sea and flowing through ports, maritime infrastructure is a major factor in urban planning. The latest study by SEA20 finds an emerging need within cities, academia, and the industry to jointly tackle unnecessary emissions and untapped opportunities that shipping holds for our cities’ future. While the will exists, the study also reveals that lack of communication and collaboration between different key maritime players is preventing progress at a time when the signs and impact of global warming are accelerating.
SEA20 is a network of maritime cities looking to jointly tackle emerging crises connected to rapid urbanisation and environmental challenges. So far Helsinki, Hamburg, Rotterdam, the State of Washington, Trieste, Luleå, Vaasa and Genoa have signed up.
Contributors to the study highlight data-sharing as an example of an efficiency-increasing practice that is widely adopted among other logistics industries, but still untapped by maritime. For example, data sharing could resolve congestion in ports and dramatically reduce emissions in the area.
“There is a problem of trust in the maritime ecosystem, as different players have different benefits. The authorities look at issues from their point of view, the industry has its own angle and so on. But how to build trust?” says Xiangming Zeng, Associate professor at the Shanghai Maritime University, in the study.
According to interviewees, from a technological perspective, many solutions exist already today, but there is lack of legislation and incentives for accelerated change. Another key finding has industry, academia, and urban planners echoing the need for wider public interest and pressure towards the industry and its decision-makers:
"The maritime industry has enormous and largely understated opportunities for ordinary citizens. This is why it is important not only to involve diverse communities planning for maritime, but to draw on their energy as agents of change, key beneficiaries, and individuals who care about a sustainable future, " says Joshua Berger, Governor’s Maritime Sector Lead, State of Washington.
There is consensus among SEA20 members that the need to address these concerns extends beyond technological questions. The study contends that since the oceans are also the Earth’s largest natural ecosystem, humanity’s survival as a species is contingent upon their preservation. Therefore, political weight is needed now to develop and deploy effective solutions.
Cities urgently need to join forces
The study goes on to conclude that there are universal needs across all maritime cities, such as mixing the maritime work force with urban innovators and streamlining decision-making, that could become the ground for a common global push. Innovation undertaken in a joint fashion could potentially see all key players invested in sustainable development across the entire sector.
It posits that standardisation is the key to a set of solutions trained on the long term. Effective technologies and strategies must be shared amongst ports and cities. The list of potentially fruitful cases is already growing.
“The key to speeding up transformation is simple: inject new thinking, talent, and political will. Cities have the capability to bring all of these to the table and we believe it is their responsibility, and in their interest, to do so. As the emerging powerhouses of global political influence, maritime cities are in the perfect position to do so and can wield influence towards international regulatory bodies and the industry itself,“ says Risto E.J. Penttilä, CEO of Nordic West Office and coordinator of the SEA20 network.
An ongoing push of the initiative is to draft principles that unite its members in a number of stated ambitions. The SEA20 network aims to present first drafts of these principles by September 2020.
View the summary page, download the study, and get involved.