Ports from Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland recommitted on 7 April their support to UNCTAD’s programme helping ports in developing countries boost productivity and efficiency.

The Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Belfast Harbour signed a new 4-year agreement with the UN body, renewing their partnership with its TrainForTrade Port Management Programme.

With ships carrying over 80% of the goods people buy, from food to medicine to electronics, ports play a crucial role in trade and socioeconomic development – a fact highlighted by COVID-19.

Restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus led to delays in ports that put a strain on global supply chains and contributed to higher prices for consumers.

“COVID-19 reminded the world that when ports slow down, everyone suffers,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said.

In the photo from left: Captain Kevin Allen, Harbour Master of Belfast Harbour; Simon Manley, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General, UNCTAD; Michael Gaffey, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Ireland; Peter O’Shaughnessy, Head of Human Resources of the Port of Cork Company

Long-term partnership

Dublin partnered with UNCTAD in 2007, followed by Cork in 2014 and Belfast in 2018.

The three ports will continue to provide support by hosting training activities, such as courses to certify managers from ports in Africa, Asia and Latin America as programme instructors.

Staff from the Irish and Northern Irish ports will also help produce and update the training material, which includes almost a dozen modules.

These cover all aspects of managing a port efficiently, from reducing the environmental impact of operations to speeding up ship wait times to building resilience to pandemics and crises. Senior managers from Dublin, Cork and Belfast will help deliver training modules in many of the hundreds of ports that are part of the TrainForTrade network.

Ms. Grynspan said the Irish and Northern Irish ports’ commitment and professionalism have been key to the success and longevity of the programme, which has trained and certified over 6,700 port managers in 140 countries since 1996.

”These trained officials make a difference in the way their ports are run,” she said.

”People are the reason of the success. I like to credit the people who have participated in the programme about their enthusiasm.”

– Captain Kevin Allen, Harbour Master of Belfast Harbour

Making a difference

One of the thousands of port professionals trained by the programme is Hector Miole, who decades ago started his career as a terminal operator and is now the assistant general manager of the Philippines Port Authority, one of TrainForTrade’s members.

Mr. Miole credits the training with helping him rise through the ranks and making him a more effective manager.

Beyond improving his knowledge and skills, he said the programme allowed him to replicate in the Philippines solutions from other ports.

“Understanding the growth and development of Dublin port and how the port of Cork managed its cruise and passenger ferry businesses were important guideposts during my visit,” Mr. Miole said after taking part in training workshops in the two Irish ports.

Ambassador Michael Gaffey of Ireland said this collaborative spirit is the heart of TrainForTrade.

”The programme unites port professionals from developed and developing countries to work on the same challenges. It’s a matter of working together and exchanging knowledge and experiences,” Mr. Gaffey said. He thinks that recent crisis have showed the resilience and importance of the Port Management Programme.

“Climate change, COVID-19, and the war have shown the importance of building resilient ports”, Mr. Gaffey added.

”COVID-19 pointed the fragility of the value chains, and without ports those value chains are dead. It is important to protect what we have. We have achieved concrete results with this UNCTAD co-operation. It’s not only words, but really an impact for people’s lives and livelihoods.”

– Mr. Evan Garcia, Ambassador of the Philippines in Geneva

Win-win endeavour

The Port of Cork’s head of human resources, Peter O’Shaughnessy, also sees the endeavour as a win-win.

”Much is given by our port, and much is received in return,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

”Our own port team equally gains from our involvement as we also see our own people learning, broadening their experience, strengthening their knowledge and understanding of our industry and growing a network of contacts globally.”

Ambassador Simon Manley of the UK and Northern Ireland agreed, saying the learning and sharing of experiences provided by the global network ”is the very essence of what UNCTAD is all about”.

”Trade is not a zero-sum game.” Mr. Manley said. ”It is a veritable opportunity for everybody.”

The signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding between the three ports and UNCTAD was also attended by representatives of Cambodia, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Tanzania.

“Port operations have direct impact for the ability of a country to participate in international trade. Another big benefit are the strong networks of port workers which make it easier to formally and informally collaborate with cross-border challenges.”

– Ms. Maimuna Kibenga Tarishi, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of United Republic of Tanzania in Geneva