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Summary of a draft report

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First draft 00 03 28 / Lars Källström, Susanne Ingo

Summary of a draft report

Sea Transports in the Baltic Sea

Trends and consequences for urban structure and regional development in the Baltic Sea region

Report written by

Lars Källström, TFK Transportforschung GmbH and Susanne Ingo Inregia AB

On behalf of the Interreg II C projects

Matros and Urban Systems & Urban Networking in the Baltic Sea Region


The major issues

MATROS focuses on:

  • Which are the driving forces and major players governing the waterborne transport system

  • Which are the problems generated or reduced by waterborne transport

  • Which are the regional options for handling conflicts or synergies between waterborne transport and objectives regarding:

urban development

trade and commerce

promotion of sustainable transport solutions.
What makes waterborne transport so special (particularly in the BSR) is that it is both a commercial undertaking and, under some circumstances, it also plays the role of a bridge with most of the structuring consequences of such an infrastructure. However, it is a bridge, which has to operate under commercial conditions, which means access to markets and stable investment conditions in at least a 10 years perspective.

This report

The objectives of this report are

  • to outline the driving forces behind the development of the waterborne transport sector in general and in the Baltic Sea Region in particular,

  • to describe problems and opportunities connected with this development from a commercial and a spatial policy viewpoint ,

  • to discuss different policy options to handle conflicts of interest between spatial planning and commercial interests and how to encourage urban networking and urban cohesion across the Baltic.

The report attempts to summarise a very complex material on a few pages, hoping to provide a comprehensive overview of the main trends, the major players of the system and how these might affect the future development. The report makes use of several recently published reports and on input from a workshop arranged by the two INTERREG II C projects Matros and USUN in Stockholm in January 2000.

The approach is to give an overview of trends in waterborne transport and to structure the analysis with regard to how the trends affect the development in different market segments and geographical areas and what relevance this might imply for spatial policy in the BSR-region. It is argued that there are three major transport problems to be addressed:

  • Raw material or low value, semifinished products as bulk or general cargo

  • High value cargo most of it packed in different types of transport units (containers, swapbodies, semitrailers)

  • Passenger transport including buses and individual cars

Basically, the conclusion is that in all cases, a development has consequences on land use and infrastructure while the two last transport tasks also has a structuring aspect in the BSR. These flows have a tendency to be part of transport corridors linking urban centres in a network of road and rail on land with a kind of “floating highway” at sea meeting all kinds of needs for commercial and non-commercial activities.

Ports as a means to influence regional economy and urban networking

Policy issues related to the port

It has been demonstrated that waterborne transport is a complex issue and that the port constitutes a field where regional and local spatial policy can affect this transport development and thus also the regional conditions. However, there are several restrictions and limitations governing the available policy options, some self imposed, other generated by national and even European institutions or by the market.

The port and its hinterland connections are normally a local/regional issue and as such creating regional competition. National or European efforts are mainly focusing on providing fair terms for competition and guarantees for minimum quality standards.

Apart from this the national level can contribute by providing a stable regulatory environment which is stepwise harmonised with the regulations applied in other countries.

Much of the attraction of a specific port is either based on commercial performance or its given location close to a major market. However, apart from the obvious provision of infrastructure in terms of road, rail and telecommunications, spatial policy can indirectly contribute to the competitiveness of a port by providing a stable framework for its development. Shipping companies as well as other partners in the transport chain are increasingly seeking long term relationships for sharing investments and for efficient planning.

For the further discussion, the policy issues are structured into three themes,

  • economic policy

  • urban development policy

  • environmental policy

The three themes are not totally independent of each other, but nevertheless they represent poles of interest in politics and are also reflected in the organisational structures.

Economic policy

Ports and the related trade and service activities are important centres of economic activity. Jobs are created by the direct activities of handling vessels, vehicles, cargo, crew and passengers, but even more through the surrounding services for warehousing, third part logistics, tourism services, vessel services and repairs, information support, brokering, insurance and financing. Many actors provide the services in ports and terminals. All parties concerned make big interdependent investments and are tied together by system and organisations for handling and information. Ports should be seen as knowledge intense service centres

Access to competent staff and advanced logistic and tourism services is becoming an important competitive aspect, especially in the field of information technology. Local and regional authorities should support this in order for their region to be able to offer an environment, which can keep up with technical and organisational development.

The regional/local level can contribute by focusing investments in relation to ports needs, both in the port and on connecting sea and land links. Old parts of the port might be closed, new areas incorporated, fairways dredged etc. It should also provide a long term framework for port expansion/reorganisation to guide public as well as private investments reducing frictions and uncertainties.

It is the task of the owner of the port to guide the development with the objective to enhance or at least to maintain the economic viability of the operations. Strategic alliances might be sought with some of the key customers to secure service and investment on both sides.

Local public authorities own many ports around the Baltic. The political situation is often immediately reflected in the composition of the port´s board and political differences have a tendency to guide the board´s work, which does not necessarily promote the prosperity of the port nor the confidence in its long-term strategies. Professionalism is asked for and the political issues are better addressed on the level of the local or regional parliament.

National and European restrictions and guidelines regarding the port and the shipping business also affect the economy of the port. Taxation and dues have an impact on the regional conditions but also restrictions aiming at creating conditions for fair competition. As many ports today are subsidised by public money, these latter restrictions will have a big impact in the future.

Urban development policy

Though the port activities often have been one of the main features in the city economy there is often a pressure to move the port out of the cities. Ports were traditionally located in the city centres This is still the case in many transition economies. However, as both the port and the city grow, the competition on land use is likely to grow too. The rise of heavy transports to and from the port will increase the conflict.

As traditional port areas in city centres develop into multi-modal transport terminals in combination with service providers the demand for high accessibility in connecting rail and road networks rises. The time tables for ships and freight terminals often demand accessibility at rush hour when many people on their way to or from work use the same routes.

Passenger terminals for ferries often present a special problem as they should be placed close to the cite centre and public transport to be attractive to the ferry line. At the same time cars and lorries using the ferry might create congestion and increase the risk for accidents on the city roads. New ports and terminals for dry bulk, oil and containers might be more easily moved and several have been built further out in many cities, while the old harbour areas are used for urban development. Port areas often represent property with seaside location and rising land values.

These central port areas are often attractive for both housing and commercial activities. In several of the biggest cities – Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and others - old port areas have served as the main land resource for new construction in the city during the last years.

The reasons for moving a port or a terminal could be

  • increased traffic

  • the need to cater for new services

  • increase in vessel size or navigational problems

  • urban demands on port areas

  • environmental problems

The port represents huge investments, not only to the organisations owning and operating the facilities in the port, but also outside the port, where organisations have developed terminals linked to the port.

Road and rail connections are often inadequate, which could be a reason for moving, but they still represent big investments. They might also by tradition be tolerated as traffic corridors. City access is attractive to ferry and cruise operations. Good connections and services to markets have grown over time to form an intricate network of companies and services.

Moving the port means not only moving the port facilities, but also that the related activities have to move or at least to adapt to the new traffic situation. There will be commercial consequences both for the operators on land and at sea, both positive and negative. More space and less restriction opens for more efficient operations and attractive services. Sailing access can be improved as well as rail and road connections. However, access to critical markets can become more complicated, which might destroy the commercial basis for some operations.

Environmental policy

Like most economic activities the port also generates traffic and disturbances not only in the urban areas but also along fairways and hinterland connections. However, they are most evident as long as port terminals are located close to the city centre. The growing transport flow demand space and cause emissions as well as visual and physical barriers between city and sea as modern ports handle containers and unitised cargo on large scale and occupy vast areas.

The location and provision of new and expanding port facilities and its connecting infrastructure are often delicate matters. More traffic, noise, dust and emissions might cause conflicts with neighbouring activities. Hence, decision-making related to location of new ports and multi modal transportation centres must consider the long-term impact of the port and related activities on the environment. This is especially important in coastal zones close to the metropolitan areas where competing economic, recreation and ecological interests meet but are difficult to combine. Speed restrictions, waste and bilge disposal must be supervised and taken care of.

In order to be efficient, many environmental regulations have to be issued on a national or even a European level. Regional authorities can promote this development by formulating the needs and assessing the impact.

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