Towards an ecosystem based port design process: lessons learnt from Tema Port, Ghana

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Connecting to the trend of harmonization of port developments with nature, this paper presents a framework for the explicit inclusion of ecosystem based alternatives in the early planning and design stages of seaport developments. The framework aims to shift the focus from offsetting environmental impacts afterwards to avoidance and reduction of environmental impacts as integral part of seaport planning and design. Our framework, labeled the ecosystem based port design hierarchy, helps to identify ecosystem based alternatives at 4 hierarchical levels of port planning and design: (1) consideration of alternatives to port developments to meet a perceived transport capacity problem (i.e. “no-port” alternatives), (2) port site selection, (3) port layout selection and (4) selection of port structures and materials. Application of the framework to the planning and design process of Tema port expansion in Ghana in hindsight shows that ecosystem based considerations barely played a role in alternative generation and evaluation. Therefore, opportunities for environmental impact avoidance and reduction may have been missed in the decision making process. It is recognized that decision making is a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder process which is not based on environmental considerations only, but requires tradeoffs with functional, operational and socio-economic requirements. Nevertheless, we believe that explicit identification and inclusion of ecosystem based alternatives as part of this decision making process, as supported by our framework, is a requirement to arrive at port developments that are (better) harmonized with nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 34th PIANC World Congress
Subtitle of host publicationPanama City, Panama 2018
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event34th PIANC World Congress - Panama, Panama
Duration: 7 May 201812 May 2018
Conference number: 34


Conference34th PIANC World Congress
Abbreviated titlePIANC 2018
OtherThe PIANC World Congress 2018 will present and discuss the most relevant topics to the waterborne transport infrastructure sector.
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