Building resilient urban ports and harbours through globally integrated research and management


The goal of the World Harbour Project (WHP) is to develop resilient urban ports and harbours through a global network of collaborating scientists.

Initiated by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), the aim of the World Harbour Project is to link, facilitate, and enhance programs of research and management across major urban harbours of the world.



Water and Sediment Quality

As a result of residential and industrial development, harbour waters and sediments, often become enriched with nutrients and subject to sedimentation and elevated loads of pollutants, such as particulate matter, heavy metals, metalloids and organic contaminants. This workgroup aims to comprehend and compare how these stressors impinge upon the natural, social and economic resources of harbours and pursue effective strategies for the management of water and sediment quality issues.

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Multiple Uses and Users

Harbour users seek access to the common pool of natural resources of the sea and land for different reasons and this can lead to conflicts. Harbours and ports may have stakeholders from local and national governments, national and international industries plus the community. Some examples of the multiple uses of harbours are: transport –shipping of cargo, passenger ferries and cruise liners; industry – development of commercial properties and extraction/utilisation of resources; residential development; commercial and recreational fishing; other recreation activities such as boating and beach going, and cultural activities such as festivals, social gatherings and indigenous links to country.

Research on conflicts between multiple users of coastal resources is in general in its infancy, while research on harbours and their conflicts is almost entirely lacking. This workgroup aims to address this gap in knowledge.

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Green Engineering

As coasts become more urbanised, and foreshores and waterways are developed for residential and industrial purposes, coastal environments are gradually being built over. Natural habitats that support complex assemblages of native flora and fauna are being lost at a rapid rate. The concrete and metal structures built in their stead are often inhospitable to recolonisation by displaced native species. Harbours and ports are extreme examples, with many having lost much of the original habitats, such as rocky reef, that supported native biota.

As on land, attention is turning to green engineering techniques to restore natural communities to marine artificial structures within the coastal environment. Efforts are being made to design structures that support rather than degrade their surrounding ecosystems, that incorporate multiple functions and that preserve vital ecosystem services, including the provision of habitats hospitable to native species.

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The WHP, through its USA partners, has strong links to the New York Harbour High School’s Billion Oyster project and the US-Australia Virtual Environmental Partnership. Furthermore, the New York University, Abu Dhabi, has state of the art infrastructure for online and remote learning through its Marine Biology Lab. The WHP also has a strong foundation in postgraduate teaching opportunities via its Spanish partner ‘Campus do Mar’ in Vigo, an International Campus of Excellence in marine science. The aim of this workgroup is to strengthen these links with further partnerships in urban coastal stewardship to train young scientists and reach out to harbour users, both public and private.

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