We need more mavericks in ports

COMMENT: In various previous columns I have argued that port development is often ‘emergent’ rather than planned, writes Peter de Langen.

Often, there is a huge gap between the port development plans on paper, and the realised port development. Of course, this is not unique to port development, but a common characteristic of most companies: the strategy emerges out of executed projects.

If we accept this take on port development, it follows that port authorities/port development companies need ‘mavericks’, people that do not follow the prevailing strategy or way of thinking and develop alternative ideas for port development. As an aside, the term maverick derives from a Texas rancher named Samuel Maverick who refused to brand his cattle.

However, especially in state-owned or state-administered port authorities, mavericks are hard to find, and contrarian behaviour and risk taking is often not appreciated or even tolerated. This is at odds with the reality that port development is emergent and deviates from plans. Thus, tolerating and stimulating ‘maverick behaviour’, especially in the early stages of business development, is advisable. Like most organisations, port authorities can benefit from creating a ‘space’ in the organisation for developing ideas for port development that are not in line with the prevailing strategy and mindset.

Given the often strong focus on cargo handling volumes, some of the following types of projects may need these mavericks: cruise and marina facilities in traditional cargo ports; solar power generation in the port area, for example on rooftops; re-use and recycling activities in the port area; leisure activities; industrial 3D printing (additive manufacturing) facilities; industrial farming; and offshore wind and potentially even offshore solar.

The above themes may have already entered the mainstream for some ports and true mavericks may have moved on, but in my view there’s still a need for them at countless others.

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