Challenges and Opportunities for Seaports Towards Future Sustainability: The UK’s North East Smart Ports Testbed Case Study

Matteo Conti*, Marco Zilvetti, Richard Kotter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Globalisation and technological advancements in the transport sector have entailed a significant expansion of the maritime and offshore energy industry, whilst redefining the role of shipping and ports in global and national supply chains. Ports (often urban-based) also play a significant role in their hinterland, through on-land business operations including logistics, renewable energy generation and decommissioning/recycling activities. However, the ports and maritime sector have been identified as lagging behind other fields in terms of both a digital transformation strategy (to monitor, manage, and support decision-making and investment) and their readiness to accommodate technological innovation and sustainable development (especially vis-a-vis carbon emissions reductions) at a time of increasingly stringent environmental requirements in the domain of sustainability and energy efficiency.
As these are strategic objectives for ports to achieve, the North East of England Smart Ports Testbed project, as part of a wider set of engagement activities by key actors in this remit, was developed by a multi-disciplinary research team at Northumbria University together with stakeholders from local ports and businesses to tackle specific global-scale challenges at a regional level. Opportunities for sustainable growth, cleaner and integrated logistics were investigated through desk-top study and service design action research methods (workshops and interviews). Key research areas, which are also embedded into the UK’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges in terms of the future of mobility (the optimisation of freight, and increased safety), Artificial Intelligence, the data economy (understanding the types of data generated by ports, and how to valorise them), and clean growth (cutting carbon and other emissions/pollution) were explored. Furthermore, this project focus directly connects to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 9 (“Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure”), 11 (“Affordable and Clean Energy”) and well as 8 (“Decent Work and Economic Growth”).
The project contributed towards furthering the aims of the wider Smart Ports Testbed initiative by providing valuable insights to determine the focus areas of future technical and organisational solutions to be trialled at the ports in their quest to become smarter ports. The chapter will also provide an outlook on how some of those objectives can be framed and contribute towards increased circular economy efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Sustainability Science in the Future
Subtitle of host publicationPolicies, Technologies, and Education by 2050
EditorsWalter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Federica Doni, Amanda Lange Salvia
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2023

Publication series

NameLiving reference work


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenges and Opportunities for Seaports Towards Future Sustainability: The UK’s North East Smart Ports Testbed Case Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this