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Stakeholders: A Seaport’s Secret Resource

The easiest way to pull the rug out from under a port’s success is to ignore stakeholders. Seaports need informed, supportive allies to set the stage for almost any project or initiative.

By Lori Musser

The easiest way to pull the rug out from under a port’s success is to ignore stakeholders. Seaports need informed, supportive allies to set the stage for almost any project or initiative.

How each seaport defines stakeholder groups, identifies movers and shakers, carries out two-way communications and incorporates input varies by port and by project, but there are some commonalities.

Most ports define stakeholders to include customers, labor and supply-chain partners, government officials and regulators, economic development agencies and the port community. Simply identifying the stakeholder groups can be a daunting process, especially in a large community. And the fact that each unique port initiative demands a unique assortment of stakeholders adds complexity to the process. Then there is the unenviable task of weeding out the groups that lack direction or voice. Ports have finite resources and can’t spend all their time on outreach, so most look to build relationships with those stakeholders having competent leaders.

The family of stakeholders necessarily includes supporters and agitators. Fortunately, sharing information with and soliciting input from these groups, taking their concerns and insights to heart and acting on them in a thoughtful manner has helped many ports turn active agitators into staunch supporters. At the very least, incorporating stakeholder insights can help move the port project or initiative forward, albeit sometimes in an altered manner. In a best-case scenario, stakeholder-suggested adjustments can help improve a project’s success including its bottom line.

Once relationships with stakeholders begin, sharing information at each stage of a port initiative is critical. Ports typically incorporate a broad range of communications tools into their stakeholder outreach programs, from regular meetings to print and online publications to social media, but, for critically important stakeholders, ports also tailor-make specific outreach tools.

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