Ports have reached a pivotal stage in their evolution. Operating purely as landlords of terminal and industrial concessions is no longer a guarantee of economic growth and prosperity. They must evolve and adapt to remain relevant.
End-to-end maritime supply chain conglomerates are emerging with no fixed ports of call. Record profits for oil and gas majors, shipowners, terminal operators, and overland logistics players combined with weakening global demand means that port authorities can no longer negotiate their interests from a point of strength. Importers and exporters are demanding better cargo visibility from ports. Digitalization is accelerating to a point where if ports remain unengaged, their role in the supply chain will dwindle.
Ports will only become part of the maritime energy transition if they can attract the public-private investments needed to create the infrastructure for zero carbon fuels, half of which will need to be transported by ship from the new exporting countries to consumers. These changes are set to transform global energy trading routes with new innovation-led ports challenging the old guard. Future port energy hubs cannot afford to lose the competition to other land-based centres for producing and distributing these new energies, otherwise shipping itself will lose access to these fuels and with it a golden opportunity to decarbonize and reduce its share of emissions.