Operationalizing the concept of Sustainability for Sustainable Port Design: Case of Port of Tema, Ghana

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientific


Ports are designed for their economic function, i.e., to accommodate trade. Traditionally, engineering perspective prevails in port design and environmental and social aspects are accounted for at a later stage. A growing consensus recognizes the need for sustainable port development, aimed at finding the right balance between economic, social, and ecological aspects. However, sustainability is an easily coined term to which stakeholders and experts give different interpretations or at least set different priorities, often related to their background and interests. A critical element including sustainability in port design process is gaining insight in the meaning of sustainability and in particular how this can be operationalized. In this paper we give insight in stakeholders’ and scientists’ perspectives from an engineering, ecological, governance and economic viewpoint on sustainability in port infrastructure. Furthermore, we discuss how these perspectives can contribute to a more integrated approach, based on co-creation, giving space to disciplines or viewpoints that are traditionally not that much involved. Hence, broader economic and societal values can be included and opportunities identified, rather than considered as institutional constraints.

The research project employs a bottom-up approach involving a wide range of stakeholders directed at the port of Tema, Ghana. To obtain insight in the perspectives of the four disciplines of engineering, ecology, governance and economy and those of stakeholders in the field, the following activities have been conducted:
1.Literature review and desk research over aspects such as sustainability and sustainable port development andeco-system based port designs was carried out.
2.Scoping workshop in 2016 on problem identification in the Port of Tema, in Ghana.
3.Survey and serious game play across scientists and supporting parties of the projects on the meaning of sustainability in ports in general
4.A large workshop and field mission in Tema Harbour in February 2017 with participation of a wide range of local stakeholders. A game structuring approach was followed for generating visions for the future. During the field mission port authorities and scientists have been interviewed.

The different viewpoints provide the following priorities:
oFirst and foremost, a port should function as a port (i.e. enable transfer of goods).
oNeed for this mild conditions and sufficient depth to allow for berthing and navigability
oConserve: Preferably, a port does not affect its surroundings:
Location choice is critical, whereby scarce locations such as estuaries should be avoided, rather expand than develop new sites and similar sites well protected. Large scale perspective is necessary.
Maintain connectivity
oCreate: Smart design (eg gradual transfers, variability), and material choice.
oUse Ecosystem services basis for the design; specific values include congestion, coastal erosion, spiritual values, employment and housing
oSCBA can be critical in convincing policy makers and investors; this includes fast implementation by reducing complaints and legal constraints
oStakeholder inclusive design allows for broadening the scale and scope of the issue at hand and may lead to new or creative opportunities
oPPPs most likely allow for successful implementation and flexibility in the long term

Implications for Research/Policy
•Learning about the values and knowledge resources of local stakeholders is essential to create system understanding and identify opportunities for creating added value. From a sustainability perspective, ports are no longer considered in isolation but as part of a coastal, societal and transportation system. This directly allows for broadening the scope and scale on which trade-offs are being made and opportunities searched. The search for opportunities , rather than being reactive, distinguishes a sustainability approach from traditional design approaches.
•Based on the perspectives of stakeholders conceptual port lay-outs can be developed, including port expansion plans, ‘add-on’ modules, and how to develop a fully stakeholder inclusive design process
•Lastly, the stakeholder/expert perspectives enable the development of a set of evaluation criteria to assess proposed lay-outs, and provide insight in prioritization of different criteria categories.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Siga2 2018 Conference 'Maritime and Ports': The Port and Maritime Sector: Key Developments and Challenges
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventSiga2 2018 Conference 'Maritime and Ports': The Port and Maritime Sector: Key Developments and Challenges - University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
Duration: 3 May 20184 May 2018


ConferenceSiga2 2018 Conference 'Maritime and Ports'
OtherTwo-day international conference organized by:
The Special Interest Group A2 (Ports and Maritime) of the World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS)
Internet address


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