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World Bank and IAPH aim to ‘close the gaps’ in global port infrastructure

24 October 2022

The World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) have formulated a joint action plan aimed at improving global port infrastructure to better serve maritime operators and other stakeholders. In a recently published report called ‘Closing the Gaps’, the organisations outlined future infrastructure challenges and revealed their next steps to tackle them.

IAPH and the World Bank acknowledged the ‘irrefutable fact’ that, due to long-term under-investment, many ports were not prepared for the extreme swings in demand suffered since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The supply chain crunch has been a result of the delay in investing to address three challenges – decarbonisation, digitalisation and disruption – leading to a ‘Great Entanglement’ of inter-related and inseparable problems among logistics stakeholders.

Looking at digitalisation as one area of investment needed to tackle supply chain issues, the report proposes that “port authorities have the potential to encourage data collaboration and the potential unification of port stakeholders’ interests to reduce inefficiencies and increase supply chain fluidity”.

IAPH Managing Director Patrick Verhoeven told ICS Leadership Insights that a first follow-up output from the report is a guide based on the experience of ports that have successfully integrated innovation into their business models. Other anticipated outputs in the coming months include a new suite of safety-related port bunkering and terminal tools for zero-carbon fuels and a guide for ports looking to establish a structured approach to resilience.

Among other action points to encourage greater infrastructure investment, the World Bank will be refreshing its Port Reform Toolkit. The toolkit aims to provide policymakers and practitioners with effective decision support in undertaking sustainable and well-considered reforms of public institutions that provide and regulate port services in developing countries. IAPH will also be contributing to the new toolset.

The report and joint action plan follow the release in September 2022 of an UNCTAD online resource aimed at building resilience across the maritime supply chain.