The DocksTheFuture Project aims at defining the vision for the ports of the future in 2030, covering all specific issues that could define this concept including among others, dredging, emission reduction, energy transition, electrification, smart grids, port-city interface and the use of renewable energy management. The project is a Horizon 2020 Coordination and Support Action, and consist by definition of actions consisting primarily of accompanying measures such as standardization, dissemination, awareness-raising and communication, networking, coordination or support services, policy dialogues and mutual learning exercises and studies, including design studies for new infrastructure and may also include complementary activities of strategic planning, networking and coordination between programs in different countries. The project consists of five work packages and a horizontal work package on project management. 


Overview of the Work Packages and their interrelation


Four main Working Packages has been designed for this project to be conducted and led by different project partners:

WP1: Port of the Future: definition of the concept to define consolidated “Port of the Future Concepts” based on preliminary activities involving stakeholders and experts;

WP2: Selection and clustering of projects and initiatives of interest to define the clustering methodology and second to cluster retained proposals,

WP3: Evaluation: analysis of the clustered projects and activities of interest.

WP4: Dissemination and Exploitation to create a higher level of awareness and demand from stakeholders and target audience;

The work packages are related to each other. Exploitation of results to define how to transfer results and in the most effective way, delivering a number of related tools. The overall goal of the WP is to ensure efficient project management, including interfacing the European Commission. To maximize the potential for exploitation the project management structure aims at a high transparency in work progress and transfer results. Furthermore, the first work package of the project covers a non-exhaustive list of EU policies and legislations – regional, the national, European and global level that were identified during the analysis of the inputs or added by the authors. Be aware that this is just a list of EU and international policies, legislation, standards, frameworks and good practices found during the desktop study. 


Ports of the future defined

 In order to arrive at a definition of the port of the future, the authors had to operate within the project’s framework as defined in the grant agreement. A clear definition of a port was not supplied in the project proposal but to allow a focused desktop analysis, the following definition of a port was used: “An area on both land and water, whether on the sea or river, that provides facilities for shipping vessels to load and unload their cargo or to let passengers embark or disembark”. It is, of course, the intention at the end of WP1 to come to a clearer definition. Further on the scoping of the literature review in this WP, the following criteria were used:

  • Maritime port areas are the main scope;
  • The horizon in this ‘Port of the Future’ project is set at 2030. This is important in considering, for example, alternative energies. Where LNG is considered as a transition fuel in a 2050 horizon, in this context – 2030 – it is considered as a valid alternative to the classical carbon-based energy sources. It is considered to be capable of both cutting coal-based greenhouse gas emissions and giving way to an emissions-free future;
  • Hinterland topics are considered in their connection to the port area;
  • Considered transport modes are maritime, road, rail and inland waterway transport;
  • Based on an initial ‘input’ list that was enriched by input from partners to the project


Methodological approach

 The development of a formal methodology for the desktop study is a critical success factor considering the comprehensive nature of the DocksTheFuture project. The three constituent elements of the assessment methodology are the information model, the work products and the workflow.

1. The information model

The DocksTheFuture project proposal already contains a number of information entities such as “projects and initiatives of interests”, “topics”, “aims”, “KPI’s” etc. We renamed or restructured some entities, defined additional entities, gave entities metadata and structured the entities in an information model.  A few examples are 1- Renaming: “Projects and initiatives of interests” becomes “Inputs”, in other words, the projects studies, white papers etc, and 2- Restructuring: “Topic” remains “Topic”, however, we made it a taxonomy consisting of parent topics having child and grandchild topics, instead of a flat list as defined in the  project proposal.

2.  Work products are tools we use to perform the work. For this purpose,       

 Some assessors have been using Atlas to tag pieces of text in an input, an assessment template to fill out the result of an assessment, the assessment templates are imported in the DtF database. This database is the physical implementation of the information model. The database is then queried to deliver the results.

3. The main steps of the workflow are:

  • Creating a list of possible inputs to be assessed;
  • Define criteria select from that list the inputs to be assessed and how to assess, and define the priorities. This is done by grouping together inputs in assessment rounds;
  • Assess the inputs by filling out an assessment template. Those wishing to use Atlas can tag relevant sections of text in this tool;
  • Review the assessment templates;
  • Import the assessment templates into the DtF database;
  • Query the DtF database to deliver the raw data to be included in this database

To support the desktop study, a DocksTheFutured database has been developed. Most if not all data in the first working package (D 1.1)  is coming from that database. It is important to note that the DocksTheFutured database ontains much more info than what is included in the first work package. However including all the available data would overload this section.

Three Research and innovation actions are currently in a start-up phase: Corealis, Pixel and portforward. From the initial scope definition of these 3 projects, it is clear that they align well with the entities defined in the information model such as topics, tactical objectives and measures, and that consequently, the DocksTheFuture information model would be a suitable instrument to coordinate and optimise the actions taken by these projects:

  1. Corealis
  • Optimisation of processes inside the terminal and in the wider port area. In DocksTheFututure topic 90.10 Business processes;
  • Better capacity management, identification of KPIs. In DocksTheFuture KPIs are linked to all tactical objectives. One tactical objective is TO10 Increase terminal productivity;
  • Low environmental impact, climate change adaptation; In DocksTheFuture this matches topic T60.10 Environmental sustainability. The effect of climate change is covered under “External factors and market trends” affecting the ports of the future;
  • Circular economy, smart urban development of port cities; Several inputs concerning circular economy have been assessed Port-city relations is topic T100;
  • Efficient links to hinterland transport. This is covered among others under topics T10.40 Hinterland connections, T30.30 Multi and synchromodality and T90 Digitization, digitalization and digital transformation;
  • Some of the Corealis innovations map well with measures defined in DocksTheFuture. E.g. IOT is measure MS400.
  1. Pixel
  • Pixels focus on the long tail – ports outside the top 20 – and the lack of process integration in these ports have been covered in the desktop study as far as it is mentioned in the assessment inputs. Focus on medium-sized and small ports is an attention point for DocksTheFuture;
  • It is not in the scope of DocksTheFuture to analyse different architectures for process integration. A central system, the unified “Pixel” system concept, it may be one of the possible solutions to connect port actors;
  • Pixel claims to close the gaps between small and large ports by using IoT based communication. It is unclear what protocols will be used and if it is indeed feasible to implement these protocols by all actors in these target ports;
  • The main goals of the Pixel map with several tactical objectives defined in PortOfTheFuture.
  1. PortForward
  • DocksTheFuture also covers the smart, green and interconnected port but brings it to another level by aligning everything to the 3 dimensions of sustainability: people, planet and profit;
  • From the main concept of PortForward, IOT enabled devices that transmit information over a network to a cloud solution that exposes services to actors, we consider having a network with sufficient bandwidth as an “external factor”, a precondition, for ports of the future.

Inputs and assessments

Inputs are the work products that are proposed by the DocksTheFuture partners and their subcontractors to be assessed. There are 340 inputs proposed of which currently 44 have been assessed. There are different type inputs assessed such as project, strategic port plans, scientific papers, etc. Twenty-six different types of inputs have been defined. The following table shows the top ten inputs by Type. Be aware that one input can belong to more than one category.

Type Number of inputs
Project 7
Report 6
Article 5
Port Strategy 3
Analysis 3
Scientific paper 3
Best practice 3
Book 3
Master thesis 3
Study 2
Proceedings 2
Case study 2
Implementation plan 2
Action plan 1
Other 1
White paper 1
Research project 1
Strategic vision 1
Website 1
National research program 1



The project proposal already addressed a preliminary research on the Port of Future concept, the definition of several Ports of the Future topics to be addressed and their related targets in 2030 and a preliminary list of projects that could be potentially clustered together with the RIA retained proposals:

  1. Port infrastructure & management;
  2. Accessibility and fulfilment of EU standards;
  3. Integration in supply chain & synchro modality;
  4. Environmental concerns;
  5. Sustainability;
  6. Safety and security;
  7. Digitalization;
  8. Port-city relation
  9. Port governance;
  10. Human element;
  11. Relation with neighbouring countries.

As the assessment of the inputs progressed, additional topics were added, and the need for a classification of the various topics soon became apparent. 

Specific topics:

  • The port-city relation topic is still largely unattended in international studies. Subcontractor AIVP, therefore, provided a port-city checklist covering spatial organization, environmental challenges, socio-economic development strategies and governance and port city co-construction to facilitate the detection of port-city elements when assessing an input.
  • We used the 17 UN SDGs as a checklist for sustainability.

Not all topics have been assigned as frequently. The following table shows the top 10 topic assignments. Be aware that in an assessment more than one topic can be assigned.

Number and name topic Number of assessments
T60.10: Environmental sustainability 22
T120: Governance 13
T100: Port city relations 13
T60: Sustainability 12
T10.30: Other port infrastructure 10
T40: Standards and legal instruments 9
T10.40: Hinterland connections 9
T10: Infrastructure 9
T110.20: Education and training 8
T60.20: Economic sustainability 8
T70: Safety 8
T10.60: Industrial areas 8
T10.50: Logistic areas 8
T90: Digitization, digitalization and digital transformation 8