Tourism Mobility in the Atlantic Arc
December 17, 2018
Coastal Tourism in the West of Ireland
December 17, 2018

Shipping in Belfast Port

Belfast Harbour is Northern Ireland’s main port, handling approximately 70% of the region and 20% of the entire island of Ireland's seaborne trade each year. The Belfast Harbour Estate also accommodates a number of major businesses including George Best Belfast City Airport, Harland and Wolff, Bombardier Aerospace, Odyssey, Titanic Quarter including Titanic Studios and Titanic Belfast. Over 700 firms are located within the estate, employing 23,000 people. This case study will critically evaluate the opportunities and challenges for ports and shipping under the Blue Growth agenda, using Belfast Port as a living lab. The case study will use a transition management approach to help develop a new mode of governance for sustainable development within Belfast Port. This will be centred on ‘action research’ which will involve preparing and organising meetings and engaging in discussions around sustainability with local stakeholders. This case study is being led by Queens University Belfast.

Blue Growth pathway for ports

International seaborne trade continues to increase, driven by continued growth in global demand. This has intensified the need for greater sustainability in ports and shipping. Our research seeks to examine how sustainable ‘Blue Growth’ in ports and shipping may be achieved through the application of a Transition Management approach. Using the case study of Belfast Harbour, we explored an innovative approach to future thinking and planning for sustainable blue growth. This work included identifying change drivers likely to impact the development of ports over the short-, medium-, and long-term until 2050 and assessing how the port could respond to them through three different future pathways. The drivers are best categorised using the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental (PESTLE) framework.

Examples of pressures for each category include
  • changes following Brexit trade arrangements (P);
  • coping with economic instability and uncertain flows of investment (E);
  • civic unrest in response to social injustice & inequality (S);
  • emerging digital & SMART technologies (T);
  • new legislative and regulatory changes (L);
  • and biodiversity loss (E).

  • The future pathways represent 3 different responses to these drivers and were categorised as ‘stable’ future, disruption/ resilience, and managed innovation. The ‘stable’ future pathway reflected short-term change and is based on past experiences and predictions of the future to enhance economic stability. The disruption and resilience pathway fosters resilience, adaptability and a capacity to respond to unexpected shocks with a focus on the medium term. The managed innovation pathway utilises innovation to flexibly steer towards managed, long-term change. The findings from the case study revealed that a ‘managed innovation’ approach is necessary to transition to greater sustainability over the longer term.

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