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Why Ports Need Allies: Maintaining a Working Waterfront Takes a Network of Supporters

Maintaining coastal property for maritime activities is critical to ports’ success and requires ports to find allies and partners in other levels of government, the community and the private sector to succeed.

By Candace Gibson

It’s a delicate balance to maintain a working waterfront and nurture relationships with parties who want a piece of valuable maritime real estate. Ports are under near-constant pressure to make available a portion of their water and land to the community, local government and even the private sector. Finding allies among waterfront stakeholders is essential to keeping ports’ welfare afloat. While it’s a challenge to keep a diverse portfolio of allies, ports that foster these relationships also enjoy economic success and healthy community ties.

At the Port of San Diego, President & CEO Randa Coniglio knows this challenge very well. “Our working waterfront is surrounded by a number of important stakeholder interests,” she says. “There are a lot of different interests in what goes on at the marine terminals and shipyards, and they aren’t only the interests of the neighbors nearby, but the interests of other small local businesses that serve the waterfront, traffic concerns relative to cargo-handling trucks on and off the terminals, and a number of impacts like that.” Coniglio adds that it’s a challenge to grow business because “every additional truck is an additional impact to the community,” and because the port must consider competing interests from developers, government and the public. “It’s coveted land. There are any number of interest groups that would like to gobble it up,” she summarizes.

There is enormous value in making all of your stakeholders your allies, but that would be an impossible task to do every day, with every decision. “We work really hard to maintain good working relationships of mutual trust with a variety of stakeholders. I believe it’s important not to alienate any of them,” she says. Coniglio talks regularly with these stakeholders to keep them close and understand their concerns.

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