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Towards a comparison of European port city dynamics


The European territory is marked by a vast variety of forms and functions according to urban settlements. In an age of globalisation, port and urban activities are said to concentrate and accelerate their process of growth, notably under the pressure of maritime and transport players, which connect the nodes according to their own logics.

But at a regional scale, hinterlands are more and more spatially structured with port, logistic, transformation and service activities shifting inland from constrained littoral sites. This puts in question the relevancy of the 'port city' concept, which seems to have been deluded through time, from the core settlement to the deep sea (e.g. the Anyport model of J. Bird, 1963), and from the deep sea to inland locations (e.g. dry ports, multimodal platforms).

My project aims at understanding how do port cities continue to attract services and cargo, putting in question their role as 'central places' as opposed to pure 'hubs' remote from urban settlements (e.g. Gioia Tauro in Italy, an extreme case). In order to answer theoretical questions, we need to work on a vast sample of port cities and to collect relevant data. My PhD has explored such principles at a world scale, but on a short period (1990-2000) given the lack of statistical sources.

The aim of this project is to collect time-series data linked with the concepts of urban centrality (population and services), port nodality (nodes and infrastructures) and maritime intermediacy (calls and networks). The major interests of this work would be to propose an up-to-date database, which may be used to answer specific questions such as congestion trends, competition at a wider scale, with harmonious data collected for comparable places.

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EU contribution
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Burgemeester Oudlaan 50

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