DocksTheFuture finished its first rounds of desk research on the Port of the Future concept(s), assessing 50 out of 350 proposed projects, studies, strategic plans, among other sources. A first conclusion is that most of these initiatives have the potential to shape and strengthen the Ports of the Future concept with the year of 2030 in mind.


The INEA funded DocksTheFuture project aims at defining the vision for the ports of the future in 2030 and mapping its challenges. The project, as a Coordination and Support Action, will assist the European Commission (DG MOVE and INEA) in covering the coordination and networking of research and innovation projects, programmes and policies.


The European Union’s maritime transport constitutes a crucial link in the global logistic chains and plays a leading role in international freight transport. Serving 40% of the EU’s internal trade and 75% of its external trade, maritime transport is an essential element in supporting Europe in maintaining its number 1 position in global trade. Therefore, as a key node of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network, ports have the ultimate objective to fully integrate maritime transport into the global logistics chain.



The desk analysis carried out by the DocksTheFuture project partners, under the lead of PortExpertise, during the first half of 2018, led to the definition of preliminary 2030 Ports of the Future concepts, topics, related targets and potential projects to be clustered.

PortExpertise and its project partners Circle, ISL, Magellan and subcontractors, have looked, in this first phase, at earlier EU projects (Horizon 2020, FP7, FP6, COST, ERDF, MED, INTERREG , Marco Polo, TEN-T, CEF programmes), non-EU funded projects, studies, white papers, PhD theses etc., held stakeholder’s consultations, conducted a maritime traffic research and forecast reviews, and analysed macro trends and perspectives, which eventually added up to the selection of the 50 initiatives that have mileage to flesh out the Ports of the Future concepts.

The topics cover a very large scope of themes, including among others, infrastructure, accessibility to and from ports, dredging, emission reduction, energy transition, electrification, smart grids, renewable energy management, digitalization, port-city relations, safety and the human aspects. As sustainability, corporate social responsibility and good governance are becoming increasingly important, these topics carry quite some weight in defining ‘sustainable’ projects and initiatives for the Port of the Future that can be nothing else but… ‘sustainable’. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the triple P bottom-line, People, Planet and Profit, play an important role when selecting the preliminary initiatives and projects to be implemented in the Ports of the Future.
The important take away of this research is that each topic is related to so many different aspects and other topics. When we say that it is a good idea to build more ships powered by LNG, at least for the immediate future, we have to think about LNG bunkering infrastructure, train people on the use of LNG, safety issues, legal instruments, funding etc. This multi-disciplinary approach makes it a really interesting project” says Mr. Gilbert Bentein, PortExpertise consultant who leads this phase of the project.
We will see more clearly in the next phase when various stakeholders will have challenged and completed our findings during intensive workshops after the summer break” adds PortExpertise partner and colleague Peter Bresseleers.


PortExpertise developed a structured methodology to execute the desktop study and to persist the results in a DocksTheFuture database that can be considered as a knowledge base of the domain under investigation. This will lead to a coordinated approach to the clustering, monitoring, and evaluation of results of actions. The clustered proposals and other initiatives of interest are considered during their whole ‘life cycle’ from the desktop study over the review by experts up to the realization according to a 2030 Roadmap focusing on exploitation, transferability analysis, training, R&D and policy recommendations, and a Ports of the Future network of excellence.
In short, having a structured knowledge base that is beneficial for all stakeholders in order to increase international interaction and maximise the exchange of knowledge, data and communication among all parties involved in port activities, in the whole logistics chain, port authorities, public and private companies, countries and regions, associations, academia and consultants, as well as political decision makers.