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Managing the Blue Economy: Future of Port and Shipping in the Asia-Pacific

PECC International Project 2015-2016


Development of efficient ports and optimizing maritime routes are key elements to harnessing opportunities from and facilitating international trade, enhancing connectivity and boosting economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

This PECC international project aims to contribute to regional policy dialogues on drivers of growth, sustainability and connectivity for the economies on both sides of the Pacific that are seeking to benefit from maritime trade by improving efficient and environmentally sustainable port capacities while optimizing supply chain activities.

The project is undertaken against the backdrop of a considerable shift in the shipping industry, which, after years of growth, is experiencing stagnant trade volumes, and in awareness of global environmental issues, accelerating efforts to enhance environment-friendly as well as energy-efficient productivity and beautification. Through a series of three seminars over two years, representatives from both private and public sectors including port authorities, relevant research institutions and businesses that are stakeholders in maritime transport such as port and logistics operators, service providers, shipping and cruise companies, designers and builders of vessels, port construction companies, are invited to exchange views and propose solutions for improved regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.

SEMINAR 1: Meeting the Demand for Maritime Trade
Papeete, French Polynesia | October 19-20, 2015

The first seminar took place in Papeete at the invitation of the Government of French Polynesia (FP). It took place immediately after the inaugural South Pacific Cruise Forum organized by the South Pacific Cruise Alliance (SPCA). Under the overarching theme focusing on the prospects of maritime trade in the Asia-Pacific region, the following issues were addressed:

  • What will the regional maritime trade look like in 2025 - what are the current trends and future projections?
  • What are the main drivers of increased pressure on sea routes and ports?
  • What changes in vessels – both cargo and passenger - are needed to meet the increased demand while satisfying safety and environmental criteria?
  • Which ports will emerge as new hubs; where are the chokepoints; and what will happen to smaller ports?

Executive summary and presentations are available at:

SEMINAR 2: Sustainability and Beautification of Ports
Busan, Korea | April 4-6, 2016

The second seminar took place in Busan, sixth largest container port in the world by volume (2015), in partnership with the Korea Maritime Institute (KMI). The seminar addressed environmental challenges and risks such as climate change concerns and pollution at ports. It also looked at economic challenges in light of increasing size in vessels which necessitate upgrading or relocation of ports, pollution at ports and sea, best practices in increasing energy efficiency at ports and ships while keeping them green. 

World seaborne trade has increased steadily to 9.8 billion tons in 2014 and currently there are more than 50,000 registered merchant vessels in operation. To cater to the growing volume and dependency on sea transport, vessel sizes have continued to increase dramatically over the last decade and as a consequence, there has been a cascade effect on the deployment of mega and large-sized vessels. With large vessels now operating at major sea routes, structural adjustments are demanded of ports, especially among the larger ones which must compete fiercely to become or remain regional hubs. However, increasing vessel size is no longer very economical post-2007; ships are already consuming minimum fuel with slow-steaming technology. Port upgrades have huge upfront cost implications and multiple considerations need to be factored into such decision-making process. 

In respect to green initiatives and standards at ports, while they are important and have long-term benefits that go far beyond ports, if environmental criteria and rules become too stringent, ships would rather divert to more non-compliant and cheaper ports for short-term gains. Hence, shared commitment and action followed by sustainable business practices are essential, in order to prevent compromise of port standards for competitive reasons. 

Program agenda, executive summary, and presentations are available at: 

SEMINAR 3: Coping with Uncertainties in Ports and Shipping
Auckland, New Zealand | December 5-7, 2016

The third and final seminar in the ‘Blue Economy’ series was held on 5-7 December 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Bearing in mind that ports hold critical place in supply chain management, the objective of the seminar was to:

  • examine the impacts of ever-larger container vessels and cruise ships, consider the trend towards integrated port services,
  • review vital safety and security considerations,
  • identify the likely consequences for regional trade flows of emerging mega-regional agreements, and
  • examine the technological and operational innovations being adopted by an increasing number of ports to become more energy-efficient and economically competitive.

The final session focused on the particular challenges faced by small Pacific island ports, where the chief executives from some of these ports made presentations.

Small and medium-sized ports face some specific challenges given the past upsizing of vessels by the world’s largest shipping and cruise companies, adaptation to climate changes, and the impact of upgrades at Suez and Panama Canals. They need to make some important decisions on their future strategies and upfront investments today that will have long-term economic and social implications.

For more information