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All The Right Moves

Monday, 24 December 2018 | 12:00

Buses, waterbuses, safe cycling infrastructure, car-sharing, electric bikes … ports around the world are seeking to ease congestion, reduce CO2, help their employees get to work, and ensure that other travellers can also keep moving.

Increasingly, new-tech angles are emerging. German terminal operator HHLA recently announced an agreement with Hamburg start-up 25ways, to pilot a ‘rethink mobility’ digital mobility platform. The Port of Le Havre is working in partnership with the community traffic and navigation app Waze, enabling the exchange of real-time traffic data both ways. Since July, a direct link has automatically provided information to Waze when any of the port’s 20 mobile bridges are being manoeuvred.

Ports do need to pay more attention to the issue of personal mobility within and around their operations, says Hermeline Delepouve, communications and marketing manager at AIVP, the worldwide network of port cities.

“The port generally is becoming an actor more involved in the life of the territory, and mobility has a direct impact on commuting,” she says. “However, this mobility also puts pressure on the carbon footprint of a port city.”

The goals of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) and the International Maritime Organisation’s forthcoming regulations ensure that ports are expected to limit emissions everywhere, she points out. There are quick wins, according to AIVP – increasing numbers of bike plans and encouraging car sharing and collective transport, for example. But, says Ms Delepouve, developing an alternative water transport network, where possible, is more efficient.

Case studies

Abidjan is a notable case. The Ivory Coast city signed a contract with Damen Shipyards for 16 shallow-draft passenger ferries, as part of a wider plan to reduce traffic congestion and emissions. In the UK, the Port of London Authority (PLA) has set a target of doubling the number of people travelling by river (currently 10m a year) and is championing the development of new piers for handling commuter and tourist vessels on the Thames.

Antwerp introduced a water bus in July 2017 and by September this year it had carried more than 300,000 passengers. The water bus was extended in October this year, and will be further expanded, on the Albert Canal, next year.

Information and transformation of public transport networks can deliver real results, says Ms Delepouve, with Le Havre being a good example. As well as its Waze partnership, the port introduced new bus lines in September this year.

Both are part of the ambitious Le Havre Smart Port City project, which brings together the port, city and university and, within its remit, envisages a digital transformation of the port over the next ten years, says Cyril Chedot, head of planning at the port.

“We believe ‘smart’ isn’t only a technical issue – it is a social issue,” he says. “You have to integrate people and the port into the community and interact more and more. Our goal is an integrated development model between port and city and territory.”

Managing traffic

The Port of Le Havre covers an area the size of the city of Paris – 100 square kilometres – and the port authority manages 150 kilometres of roads. About 32,000 people work in the port and industrial area. Clearly, any hold-up, road closure or bridge lifting can have a big impact on traffic flows. “Through our link to Waze, we give information about works on the port, and we have developed a special link to provide the information on the mobile bridges manoeuvring,” says Mr Chedot. “This part is completely automatic, between the bridge electronic system and the Waze system.”

Meanwhile, the port receives real-time information from Waze, which can help with traffic management and also in responding quickly to any incidents in the port area, says Veronique Hauchecorne, who is in charge of mobility issues at the port and directly involved in the Waze partnership.

“That is important in terms of safety – we can react very quickly,” she says. “The information on the mobile bridges is helpful also for truck drivers. We really want to facilitate fluidity of port access – we can offer an alternative route if a bridge is closed or if there is an incident on a road, and that could prevent drivers from using a road which is longer and so involves more emissions and more problems.”

Longer-term, Le Havre will be able to gather more data and understand better the structure of traffic, in order to add new predictive tools to forecast traffic levels, says Mr Chedot. “It is a way to optimise infrastructure design – we will have the picture and understand the structure, thanks to big data analysis.”

The port has also launched the FlexiLiA bus service, which links all the major companies in the industrial and port zone, up to the Pont de Normandie (Normandy Bridge), with key pick-up/drop-off points in Le Havre, Harfleur and elsewhere. “This provides new mobility for people going to the port zone to work – because they can ask for a bus to/from a specific place,” says Mr Chedot.

Passengers can order the bus via a smartphone app; there are 24 recognised bus stops within the port. This service will run for a six-month pilot before being assessed.

Speed and savings

In Hamburg, HHLA says the digital mobility platform will enable employees and visitors to manage commutes and business trips faster – providing up to 25 possible transport combinations and calculating the time required as well as the reduction in cost and CO2 when a traveller chooses alternatives to a car. The system bundles together all the options offered to employees – HHLA offers its own e-bike programme, subscription tickets for local public transport and electric cars and bicycles for business trips.

“In times when city centres are congested and motorways overloaded, there is a need for new, innovative ideas that enable people to get from point A to point B quickly and in an environmentally friendly way,” says HHLA.

There are 60,000 employees in the Port of Antwerp. As well as its water bus service, Antwerp Port Authority runs a ‘bike bus’, which carried more than 50,000 commuter passengers between April and September; an app has been launched to enable users to track the buses in real time. An interlinked system of bus transport and a collective electric bike system in the port area is planned for next year. At the same time, the port authority is investing in safe cycling infrastructure, which it says will improve cycling mobility, safety and convenience over a wide area where there is no public transport.


The Zeebrugge Port Shuttle has been running since 2007 – and it goes as far as Ostend and Bruges to fetch and carry workers. Subsidised by the Flemish government and coordinated by APZI (the Association of Port of Zeebrugge Interests), the service is provided by an external transport company, with buses running on three routes. Places on the shuttle are booked the day before, so sufficient capacity is ensured.

Recently, an app was launched to enable users to choose their pick-up/drop-off point and timings, pay for a ticket and then get a guaranteed seat.

Previously, the shuttle could only be booked from the employers’ side – their staff did the bookings on a daily basis, entering the details of all the passengers using the bus the following day.

“We wanted to stimulate use of the port shuttle – the more convenient it is to use, the more people can make use of it,” says Fons Verhelst, APZI strategy and policy co-ordinator. “Up to now, the workload has been on the employers’ side. Not all were open to take this on, or had the staff to enter the rides for the next day. We wanted to open it up for companies which weren’t making use of it, as well as people who just want to use the bus on a less frequent basis.”

About 20,000 people work in the port area and there are permanent vacancies for more than 1,000 jobs, says APZI managing director Karl Gheyson. “There is a shortage of available employees in the area of Zeebrugge and the wider province of West Flanders. The shuttle helps port companies to find staff for positions that are harder to fill.

“Public transportation has its limitations – not that they are doing anything wrong, but their mission isn’t to go everywhere, and industrial and port areas sometimes don’t have a very good connection like others. Equally, public transport is based mainly on daytime transport, whereas a port has shift work.

“That is a gap that we fill in. We collect people at the main railway stations and we drop people literally at the gate of the terminal where they are working. The shuttle provides flexibility and is organised on the basis of the main shifts people work.”
Source: Port Strategy

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