The environmental impacts of port activities and infrastructure are substantial, wide-reaching and multidimensional. They include polluting emissions, soil and water contamination, noise and vibration, with considerable health consequences on coastal communities and port cities' residents. Port activities also cause a wide range of external economic costs associated with congestion, waste management, land degradation, light and visual intrusion.
According to consolidated economic literature, SEZs are exceptional tools for catalyzing foreign direct investments, and especially in developed countries their use has been to introduce facilitations in the commercial logistics sector. Ports and airports are critical to the successful development of Special Economic Zones.
During the latter years, the notion of smartness has reached the maritime industry (for example, smart containers, smart supply chains, and smart ports) as an implementation of intelligent decision-making empowered by digitalisation. However, the combination of poor connectivity between ports and limited or no sharing of data about delayed arrivals between the carriers involved perpetuates the culture of first-come, first-served and a consequently low level of predictability for maritime transport.
The ever-increasing size and cargo volumes for commercial vessels require ports to be growingly digital, sustainable and connected. These requirements highlight the complexity of today’s port infrastructure and define the competitive environment. 5G, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous transport and blockchain technology are the necessary tools of this competition. However, to become more efficient and handle higher volumes of goods, it is not enough to adopt these technologies.
Shipping is the most environmentally friendly form of freight transportation. Even so, its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions amount to 2.5 percent of global emissions. Yet shipping-engine and fuel technologies have not seen major innovation since the shift from steam power to the combustion engine more than 60 years ago.
Looking into what the future will bring for ports is in many respects a challenging task, not least given the rapid pace at which our society evolves. The unforeseen shockwaves brought by COVID-19 add up to a complex mixture of geopolitical changes, commercial strategies, digitisation, decarbonisation and professional development.
Ports have always been the backbone of the development of coastal nations. Since ancient times, port economies have allowed countries to encounter new cultures, expand trade, acquire new resources and manufactured goods and improve the overall efficiency of their productive systems. And, above all, ports and maritime transport inaugurated global trade and the creation of international value chains.
Italy’s new Prime Minister Draghi has made it clear that his government will be reformist and pro-European. In his remarks to Parliament when seeking a vote of confidence he laid out his government’s intention to focus on the structural issues that have dogged Italy’s economy over the last two decades.