How to increase sustainabilty: a study of three ports in South-East Asia

Project information

Goal: Supporting a shift to greater sustainability in selected ports of Asia

Location: Indonesia, Maldives, Vietnam

Duration: August 2021 – January 2022



With about 80% of global trade carried by sea, maritime ports play an integral part of international logistics chains, and therefore the global economy. While maritime transport has been regarded as an environmentally-friendly mode of transport in terms of emissions per ton/kilometre, the negative impacts of port and maritime related activities cannot be neglected. In addition, ports are being challenged by disruptions of different nature and origins.

A sustainability roadmap for three ports

Against this background, the purpose of this study is to build on previous works by UNESCAP on port sustainability, by zooming into three selected ports in Asia and the Sub-Indian continent. This is done by creating a concrete port sustainability roadmap for the chosen ports, namely Tanjung Pelepas (Indonesia), Malé (Maldives), and Danang (Vietnam).

In order to fulfil the study objectives, the study assessed their current status of sustainability; researched best practices on port sustainability from a varied selection of cases from which ports with different unique contexts can reflect upon; and elaborated a tailored roadmap for each of the three selected ports.

Outcome and impact

From the entire methodology and approach taken in this study, there are several findings worth highlighting. Traffic congestion seems to be an issue in the three ports, particularly on the land side, implying there are liveability concerns around the ports. Improving efficiency of processes involving trucks (e.g. Gate in/Gate out) can be done by digitalizing processes, with tools such as Port Community Systems. Looking into the strategic objectives, increasing private investment seems to be a common and necessary goal among the three selected ports, suggesting the key role that the private sector may play in sustainable port development.

On the social side, female participation remains low in the three ports, which is common in the sector. Particular initiatives in this matter can be included in gender promotion programs. Increasing the ratio within organizational structures is explicitly included in two of the ports as a strategic goal.

A closer look should be paid in this respect by the other ports, for instance by encouraging a gender-balanced distribution at university, college or vocational training institution level, which tend to be the root of future talents and professionals.

Looking into the environmental domain, increasing the allocation of the total budget into environmental projects was generally identified as a key goal. Structural monitoring of this key goal is still a to be developed program that can lead to greenification of the port surrounding. The technological maturity in the three ports has room for improvement. Digital solutions to streamline process can result in reduction of traffic congestion and CO2 reduction.

Increasing compliance with international regulations, especially those concerned with sustainability matters, seems to be, and should be, a key priority. Yearly sustainability reports are not yet embedded in the current presentations. A majority of the mentioned ports embrace the idea to publish proceedings in sustainability.

The importance of human capital development is underestimated by the three ports which have been researched. Only one port incorporated concrete initiatives in this respect, via capacity building and talent attraction programs. By understanding the importance of knowledge infrastructure, there are chances to create a system for future-proof human capital development as keystone and backbone of innovative and sustainable solutions.

Impact has been realized in relation to the United Nations Strategic Development Goals (SDG)

  • SDG: 05 Gender Equality
  • SDG: 08 Decent work and economic growth

What we have achieved