Land-based hubs may fundamentally change the port landscape

Santi_Baku2018JPGLand-based hubs may fundamentally change the port landscape

Geopolitical developments such as the Chinese ‘Belt and Road’ strategy give rise to a new type of hubs. Whereas traditional maritime hubs rely on thriving shipping clusters, emerging hubs alongside major land corridors do not. Inducing new trade routes, land-based hubs will however be in a position to influence the competitive position of traditional maritime centres. Both land-based and maritime hubs share the need for strong government commitment, enabling an attractive investment climate, including legal certainty and ease of doing business. Such commitment complements other competitiveness factors, including a strategic location nearby markets or alongside major corridors, the availability of value-added services and space to grow.

These are some of the principal conclusions that emerged from last week’s World Ports Conference that the International Association of Ports and Harbors held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“It was the first time that we held our conference in Eurasia”, said IAPH President Santiago Garcia-Milà. “We are witnessing developments in this part of the world, which we have seen in the past in places like Singapore and Dubai. The major difference is that Baku is not a shipping hub, but a land-based hub which is developing rapidly as a connecting point between east and west, and also between north and south. The fact that global players as Dubai Ports and Hyperloop are investing here is a clear sign that something is fundamentally changing that will have implications for the global port landscape.”

In Baku, IAPH took a number of strategic decisions to strengthen the profile of the organisation and increase its value-added to ports around the world. The new course builds on a series of formal changes that came into force last year and it derives its content from the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) that IAPH launched in Antwerp last March, in partnership with a series of international and regional port-related organisations.

“As the global voice of port authorities we need to be at the forefront of trends that are rapidly changing the face of our industry, such as new trade routes, digitisation of the supply chain and climate change”, said Mr Santiago Garcia-Milà. “We have identified a number of priorities in these fields that we want to develop over the next years. These are based on the WPSP themes and tie in with the global institutional agenda of the IMO and other UN agencies. To achieve our objective, we decided in Baku to re-organise our internal structure and prioritise the allocation of our resources.“

Next year’s World Ports Conference will be held in Guangzhou, China. “We continue on the trail of the historical silk road”, concluded Mr Santiago Garcia-Milà. “Baku was a major trading post on the silk road and the caravans used to start from Canton, which is the present Guangzhou. Both Baku and Guangzhou are renewing their historical leadership positions today.”


Presentations given at the 2018 World Ports Conference are available from the conference website at:


For more information, please contact: Patrick Verhoeven, Managing Director Policy and Strategy –


Please read more: