Discussing Sustainability Issues at the Smart Port Summit

SmartPort is a great example of how academics and practice should never stray too far from one another. This partnership (involving the Port of Rotterdam, Deltalinqs, the City of Rotterdam, TNO, Deltares, Erasmus University, and the Technical University of Delft) aims to stimulate and finance innovative research projects for and by the port community in and around Rotterdam.

The 2018 SmartPort Summit offered a glimpse into the future: Which technologies will run the port in 2050? What does this mean for businesses operating in and around the port? And, perhaps more importantly, what is needed today to make this tomorrow a reality? The summit officially kicked off with an introduction by Elisabeth van Opstall, Managing Director of SmartPort. Keynote speakers Mel Kroon and Siebren Zijlstra then presented their thoughts and expertise on topics such as the energy transition in the port. They stressed that our linear way of thinking about new technologies is obscuring the true potential of these disruptive innovations. In their words, “exponential technologies need exponential thinking”. The cost of not adopting these technologies will only rise as these innovations reach their tipping points—which will take less than five years for many of them.

However, the most exciting part of the summit were the challenge workshops that took place after the plenary session. All participants took part in one of three sessions, all focusing on a specific “challenge” that needed to be tackled. The challenges had different topics, but all had one thing in common – they were based on real-life, urgent sustainability issues such as the consequences of climate change for port infrastructure. 

Sustainability issues are rarely simple, and real solutions often can’t be presented without the cooperation of many different parties. The problem is that these parties have conflicting needs and interests, which makes it hard to find a solution that works for everyone. The fun part of the challenge was that everyone acted as a different interest group from the one they are normally in, forcing everyone to look at the problem through a different lens. For example, our Marketing & Communication specialists Kimberley and Jenny were put in the position of the government and the association for inland shippers during this challenge!

The ultimate goal of the challenges was to come up with a “plan de campagne” for the specific issue each challenge focused on. During the SmartPort Summit, we managed to realise such an action plan and “make it happen”. In real life, when there’s real interests and money at stake, this is rarely achieved after one 45-minute debate. However, workshops like these force us to realise that collaboration and communication are essential to solving complex issues.

Our thanks go out to SmartPort for letting us participate in this instructive and lively event!




Intermodal Europe – Rotterdam

Vakbeurs Transport & Logistiek












Beurs ICT & Logistiek



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