Including emission goals within a multi-year strategic plan is a great start

By Kenneth Saunders*

 ‘New Year, new you’ is a saying often used to inspire personal growth as a new year rolls in. As they reflect on the challenges of 2023, port managers et al will do well to adopt this approach and prepare for the work ahead in 2024.

A recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Port Performance and Maritime Trade and Transport Facilitation, has proposed that the global shipping industry has weathered the supply chain crisis and is on the road to recovery. While 2022 records showed a 0.3% increase in containers loaded and unloaded, global throughput was expected to decline by 1.0% of container traffic in 2023. However, the report projected 3% growth for 2024. This means that there is cause for optimism in the coming year.

While limited budgets and infrastructural issues can pose challenges to accomplishing certain tasks, by focusing on key areas and applying a strategy of incremental improvement, port operators can position their seaports to benefit from the projected growth.

Despite growth projections ports may still, at various at times throughout the year, face the perpetual challenge of reduced demand. The subsequent reduction in business and demand could mean less resources to expand. Yet, there are still ways in which ports can improve their operations. While they may have to adjust their budgets and cut back on some things, port operators should still seek to upgrade where possible and invest for the future.

Great start

One such project can be a focused examination of ways to reduce carbon emissions. The International Maritime Organization has set a greenhouse house gases (GHG) emissions reduction target (from international shipping) of at least 50 percent by 2050, as compared to 2008. Ports may have to take an individualized approach to this particular issue.

Including emission goals within a multi-year strategic plan is a great start. Following that, port operators may want to outline which steps they will take to meet global standards on a quarterly or annual basis. The year ahead can and should mark the commencement of this task; or otherwise, the continuation of efforts already made in the previous year. Getting ahead of this task can mean considering equipment that uses environment-friendly fuel; investment in new port infrastructure; and, offering economic incentives such as differentiated port dues, as examined in Environmental Impacts of Ports at

Investment in the future and finding varying avenues through which to increase revenue to assist in this investment, are other potential priority items for 2024. In addition to investing in equipment and infrastructure, ports can also look at investing in consulting services. Such services offer an objective view of the operation from an external perspective. A consultant can offer expertise that, for example, reduces the duplication of efforts within the operation, which leads to increased efficiency. Additional revenue streams can come from new creative service offerings that add value to port customers.

Top priority

Finally, customer service should always be a top priority. At times, when the concerns of the port and the shipping line may seem to diverge, greater transparency in planning and a willingness to compromise will go a long way in satisfying the customer. Frequent and clear communication about the expectations of both stakeholders will prove valuable and lucrative in strengthening and preserving working relationships.

This year end, we at Kenneth Saunders Consulting will also adopt the New Year, new you approach. We will continue our efforts to assist ports to optimize their operations, improve efficiency and increase revenue, through innovation and futuristic thinking.

The global maritime industry is constantly changing. Port operators should therefore be routinely placing their ports in a position to adapt. The beginning of a new year provides a golden opportunity for retrospection, introspection and forward planning.[]

  • First published: December 1, 2023

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Kennneth Saunders

*Kenneth Saunders, a container yard and vessel planning specialist with more than 20 years of experience, works with container ports to optimise operations, improve efficiency and increase revenues.