The challenges of intensive development of information and communication technologies, insufficient investment, and inability to use the full potential of port infrastructure, have led to the ports of the Adriatic-Ionian region being neglected and losing their historical role as major centers of commercial and cultural exchange and development.
A transnational project acted as the driving force in their reconstruction in 2020 for the Adriatic-Ionian region called POWER – Ports as Driving Wheels of Entrepreneurial Realm. This project aimed to support ports on the way to turning them into innovative hubs that will be able to reinterpret and restore their historical role as places of exchange, in order to become connection points between different Adriatic territorial contexts intending to enhance their entrepreneurial potential, which is not used or not sufficiently valued. Through this evolution of Adriatic ports into innovation hubs, PoWER has reversed a trend that is largely characterized by structural weakness (in terms of representativeness, modernization, orderliness, socio-economic positioning, and regeneration process).
Two years after the launch of the POWER project, in January this year, the EU granted the finances for the final phase of the project – the six-month PoWER Plus project. The goal of this follow-up project is to identify major problems that may affect ports in the Adriatic-Ionian region in the short and medium-term in light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis that has more or less affected the activities of the ports that involved in the project.
The project consists of three phases: the first phase involves interviewing experts on possible future scenarios related to the port areas involved in the project, taking into account the broader situation and trends in the Adriatic-Ionian area; the second phase of the project includes a workshop that deepens the scenarios presented in phase one and identifies weaknesses and positive aspects of the strategy and methodology of the PoWER project, while the results of this paper will be used to develop an Annex to the methodology and strategy, which will be published to the public within the third, final phase, through four events “Foresight for Territorial Cooperation”.
The results of the work will be used to develop an Annex to the methodology and strategy of the POWER project.
We talked about this topic with the coordinator of the PoWER Plus project, Marko Padulo from the National Research Council of Italy, who, among other things, revealed to us how the pandemic affected the main goals of the project:
The general opinion among the interviewed experts is that the main challenge generated by the pandemic outbreak was a disruption of the supply chains which was caused by lack of manpower, difficulties in logistics, the imbalance between high demand for transport and low supply, port congestions and longer waiting time for container-ships. What is interesting, considering vessel traffic, is that while the passengers’ traffic came to an almost full stop – with relevant consequences on tourism’s economy – the demand for freight traffic had a relevant increase as a consequence of higher purchases (mainly online) of goods, especially form the East. On one side, the pandemic outbreak made some already existing issues, s.a. the lack of manpower and a low rate of process automation even more impactful. On the other side, it broke new grounds as far as security protocols, technologies and new automation technologies are concerned; moreover, it brought a relevant increase in commerce and a new (self) awareness of ports’ role in the international supply chain, but also on nations’ sustainability.
Since one of the main goals of the first POWER project was to increase energy efficiency, we were interested in whether any improvements in national and local regulations were noticed during the project:
With the exception of some specific courses required by the entrepreneurial maritime sector (e.g. Oil Companies International Marine Forum – OCIMF), today there is no standard requiring simulation activity for a specific port, kind of vessel, port staff, or maritime personnel on board. Following new needs related to sea traffic, and specificity of the sea areas near the ports (e.g. extractive platforms, farms, protected areas of high biodiversity) at the beginning of 2022, the Ravenna’s Port Authority has set up standardized anchorage areas. The critical issue shared by the digital transition in ports is often the lack of data standardization and the use of proprietary enabling platforms that are not designed for interoperability or do not make available information managed in a reusable manner. Moreover, it is not always clear who is the public entity that can activate and manage the service. In the Regional Territorial Landscape Plan (PPTR), which is in use since 2015, Puglia has foreseen a strategy for productive areas, which can be extended to the ZES. This PPTR, which contains the Guidelines on the design of Landscape and Ecologically Equipped Production Areas (APPEA), has defined a regional standard of environmental and landscape quality for the settlement, redevelopment, and reuse of production activities and infrastructures, with the goal of reducing the environmental, building, urban and landscape criticalities linked to the production areas.
The first of four in a series of events entitled “Foresight for Territorial Cooperation” was recently completed – the final phase of the PoWER Plus project where the results of the project will be presented – the Annexes to the methodology and strategy, which will be promoted by the project partners in Ravenna, Tirana, Sarajevo, and Igoumenitsa.
The goal of these events, as the project coordinator Mr. Padulo states is to contribute to the promotion of project outcomes and results at the national and regional levels:
We want to contribute to their relevance and portability to potential beneficiaries, as well as to increase the awareness of potential beneficiaries and stakeholders about the role of EU Territorial Cooperation, which can contribute to the improvement of cooperation. The consortium will use the results of the project in order to improve the ICT platform powerports.eu, which has been enriched with the new GIS maps, as well as the function of a screen reader.
As the project nears its end, we were interested in summarizing the activities so far and finding out what the final plans are at the end of the project:
The collected questionnaires have been analyzed during the local workshops and Guidelines were agreed upon for workshop management: the moderator should lead the discussion so that the speakers can improve and deepen the data that was collected through the questionnaires: by asking experts to discuss common topics (or on observations) they have focused in filling their questionnaire; to deepen specific topics they dealt with a particular interest in the questionnaires; possibly to deepen scenarios 25-30 years; to allow experts to deal with a topic complementary to what was dealt in the questionnaire. Besides, PoWER Strategy and Methodology have been offered for discussion, to collect their advice and suggestions for improving them.
In addition to four local workshops (Ravenna, Tirana, Sarajevo, and Igoumenitsa) and four events “Foresight for Territorial Cooperation “, it is also planned to compile information on local scenarios, annexes to the PoWER methodology and strategy, as well as to improve the ICT platform powerports.eu:
There is no doubt that the project’s benefits will positively impact the improvement of the conditions for the development of ports in the Adriatic-Ionian area and overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The project will have direct effects on the following target groups: local, regional and national authorities, as well as employees of higher education institutions and research centers. The results of the project will also be presented to the general public through live events. The goal of strategic prediction is not to provide definitive answers about what the future will be, but to consider the likely development of our current reality so that we are prepared for what may happen in the future.
You can see more about the project on the powerports.eu page, the Facebook account of the PowerAdrion project as well as on the power.adrioninterreg.eu program page.