For a coastal city, port development can be a blessing in disguise. Job creation brings hope to many as they find a source of direct and indirect continuous employment, but the impact of port business on city life can have a heavy tow.
The International Transport Forum’s Ports Policy Review of Chile report reveals that pollution and traffic congestion are among the most relevant issues when it comes to port activity impact in port cities. The report reads, “a study on Valparaiso released about port-related jobs, value added and public revenues (Universidad de Valparaíso, 2008); it was estimated that port activity generates 16,700 direct and indirect jobs in the region and contributes 5.3% of regional GDP. A more recent study (Jadresic and Villena, 2014) assessed the economic impacts of the construction of the terminal Cerros de Valparaiso (TCVAL). (Olaf) Merk (2013) estimated local employment related to the port complex of Mejillones and described the interlinkages of the port complexes of Antofagasta and Mejillones with the local copper mining industry.” These and other interesting findings are part of this extensive study, which shows the reality of the country’s extensive coastal economic activities.
Environmental and traffic impact
The document shows that information on environmental impacts from ports is scarce as there is no obligation for Chilean ports to publicly report on environmental impacts. The ports of Arica and Valparaíso are the exception, having conducted independent. The ITF report shows that, in general, total air pollution from ships in Chilean ports amounts to 20,800 tons of NOx emissions, 15,700 tons of SOx emissions and around 2,000 tons of particulate matter. 40% of these emissions come from containerships and the rest is from tankers and bulk carriers and the Chilean port with the largest shipping emissions are San Antonio, Quintero and Valparaiso.
As for traffic impact, although some cities have managed to re-route truck traffic through more peripheral areas of the city as not to interrupt urban activity, the general situation shows port infrastructure is integrated in the heart of the city. According to the document, in some Chilean port-cities the main port traffic impacts are from cargo trains, were a train can make as many as 11 crossings through city roads within a 24-hour period. Other cities are intensely impacted by trucks transporting containers from and to the port, disrupting main roads and causing traffic jams in the more heavily populated areas.
Improving port-city relations
There is much to learn in the port policy area. Some recipes for success suggested in the report include more participation of cities in the decision-making of public ports and vice versa, such as granting city-representatives a seat in port boards. This would increase the involvement of cities in ports and enlarge the opportunities of synergies between port and city - and would bring Chile in line with international practice.
The study also suggests that cities should be granted a share of port revenue, beyond limited collection of municipal tax on the declared capital (patente) of the port authority and the port operator, as well as the decentralization of ports to local or regional governments. The most straightforward way for cities to benefit financially from port activities is via some sort of local taxation that covers the port and its activities. This type of policy is an important opportunity to use ports as drivers of local economic development. Also, port and urban planning should be more closely coordinated, considering city representatives as important stakeholders when preparing and defining port master plans, to lessen the impact of port activity on daily urban life.
There is room for improvement, that’s for sure. But the important issue is the will to improve. Chilean port could largely benefit from improving their competitiveness if they reduce environmental impact, manage traffic and integrate with city life.
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