Polycentric Port Region. Exploring the relation between functional and institutional polycentrism

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Both Belgium (Flemish Diamond) and The Netherlands (Randstad) are seen as standard examples of polycentric urban regions (PUR). In the first part of this paper, we examine quantitatively if this polycentricity also applies to the ports of these urban regions. Our results show that within Belgium and the Netherlands, the port geography is monocentric, while taking the whole delta, a polycentric port geography exists. These results are the starting point to assess its functional polycentricity. For this we use the European regional IO database on the one hand, and refine this for different production chains with HQ-subsidiary data on the other hand. Our results show that the Belgian-Dutch port region is at the same time functional monocentric and functional polycentric, depending on the networks taken into consideration. The port region is thus a multiplex mono- and polycentric region. The second part connects the quantitative results with the qualitative policy structures. While every port is governed by its own semi-independent port authority, at the same time, these and other involved authorities form partly overlapping policy structures. We will give an overview of these and critically assess their relevance. Our results show that while there are seven structures, only a few can be considered successful. In our discussion, we link this with the commodity networks the particular structures are based upon. As long as an (economic) win-win situation exists or is aimed for, the cross-border policy structure within and beyond national borders prevail. If not, structures dissolve and the age old individual port authorities enter a zero-sum game. As we will show, latter can be avoided if the policy structures become institutionalized and development and policy structures are streamlined. Because both policy collaboration as individualism exists at the same time in ever changing configurations, we conclude that the Belgian-Dutch port geography is a clear example of a dynamic international conculega geography.
Period2 Sep 2019
Event titlePlanning and Governing Polycentric Urban Regions. : Regional Studies Association (RSA) Polycentric Urban Region Network
Event typeWorkshop
LocationLoughborough, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Polycentrism
  • port cities
  • reigonal geography