In the first two months of 2022, the seminar Ports and Global Logistics: Disruptive Scenarios by Wouter Jacobs took place. In this seminar students learn how to apply scenario planning as a strategic management tool to ports in The Netherlands. Each group of students wrote a scenario report for one of the following port authorities in The Netherlands or Belgium: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Groningen, North Sea Port and Antwerp-Bruges.
Scenario planning and its importance
Scenario planning originates from the military. Scenarios allow military planners to augment enemy moves and get grip on the uncertainties of a dynamic battlefield in order to manage the deployment of troops and military assets effectively. Likewise, international businesses and multinational enterprises operate in various interconnected markets and are exposed to a great variety of risk, non-linearity and complexity.
Thinking in scenarios allow business leaders to augment possible futures on the fortunes of their company upon which they can define various options and strategic investment decisions.
Think about the sudden but enormous impact of Covid-19 on the short term (quarantines, travel bans) and how it might impact on the long term (digital acceleration, deglobalizing supply chains). Scenario planning is used by international businesses as a strategic tool to cope with rapidly changing business environments that are often characterized by disruptions and uncertainty. Thinking in scenarios allow business leaders to augment possible futures on the fortunes of their company upon which they can define various options and strategic investment decisions.
Switch from online Zoom meetings to physical classrooms
The seminar started in January, when Covid-19 restrictions were still in place in The Netherlands. Lectures and workshops were held online via Zoom and all student groups worked virtually together. However, in the third week of the course restrictions were slightly diminished, making physical education on campus possible again! Although some students were still in their home country, everything was quite quickly up and running. It was wonderful to see all students again in real life and to engage in discussions together.
One of the groups, the one that investigated Groningen Seaports, even got the chance to visit the port authority. Below you can read their experiences!
Antonis Kyrtzalis, Urban, Port and Transport Economics Master Student
In the seminar Ports and Global Logistics: Disruptive Scenarios by professor Wouter Jacobs and assisted by Hannah Mosmans for the Urban Port and Transport economics master’s at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, we had the chance to develop realistic scenario planning techniques for hydrogen-based transition for the year 2040 on behalf of the Groningen seaports authority. Since the energy transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy in a world full of disruptions and uncertainty is becoming more and more essential, we had to identify various trends and disruptions as well as key stakeholders and external forces that have an impact on the port authority of the Groningen seaports. Our aim was to define strategic options to overcome the outcome of each of the scenarios. After completing and presenting our scenario report, we obtained knowledge on how scenario planning is used as a strategic management tool and the importance of analyzing uncertainties for an organization to be successful and effective in the long term.
It was a great and interesting experience since the major takeaways of the seminar were that we understood how a world full of uncertainty works and how challenging and necessary the energy transition is.
In addition, this seminar gave our team the opportunity to get in touch with different professionals in the field of energy and visit Groningen seaports and the industrial clusters in the area. There we had the chance to present our work and discuss it with the manager of strategic business development as well as experience how Groningen seaports authority approaches the hydrogen transition process. It was a great and interesting experience since the major takeaways of the seminar were that we understood how a world full of uncertainty works and how challenging and necessary the energy transition is. However, working with an enthusiastic team combined with week-by-week feedback from Wouter Jacobs and Hannah Mosmans throughout the seminar made us understand that being prepared and willing to learn can lead to successful results.
Steven Rozema, Urban, Port and Transport Economics Master Student
In January and February, we worked on a scenario planning report for Groningen Seaports as part of our seminar course ‘Port and Global Logistics: Disruptive Scenarios’. During this time, we investigated how Groningen Seaports can position itself in the hydrogen market towards 2040. Scenario Planning was first integrated into business strategy by Shell in the 1970’s, and nowadays it is still being used to develop possible visions of the future. It helps governments, businesses, and academia in understanding possibilities and uncertainties ahead.
It was fascinating to see the efforts Groningen Seaports is already making to accommodate and speed up the energy transition.
Finally, two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to pitch our findings at Groningen Seaports in Delfzijl. We briefly explained the scenario planning methodology before delving into our findings. It was fascinating to see the efforts Groningen Seaports is already making to accommodate and speed up the energy transition. Special thanks to Richard Middel for hosting us!
Dieuwertje Borst, Urban, Port and Transport Economics Master student
After writing a scenario report on the future of hydrogen in the port of Groningen, we were invited to present our findings to Richard Middel, Manager of Strategic Business Development at Groningen Seaports. At their headquarters in Delfzijl, we discussed the implications of the hydrogen transition, and how Groningen Seaports can play a role. It was really interesting to learn what the port authority itself is currently doing to stay ahead, and we were pleased to learn that some of the strategic options we thought would be beneficial to the port, are indeed plans that are already put in motion. We also got a tour of the entire port area, from Delfzijl to Eemshaven, and learned a lot about the industry clusters that are present in the port. It was a very educational day and was a great way to end the project.
We also got a tour of the entire port area, from Delfzijl to Eemshaven, and learned a lot about the industry clusters that are present in the port. It was a very educational day and was a great way to end the project.
Jaco van de Wijdeven, Urban, Port and Transport Economics Master Student
When we started the seminar, all lectures were still online. Fortunately after the first week the restrictions were reduced and we returned to offline lectures. The subject of the seminar, the energy transition towards hydrogen, was quite new for me, which made it a bit hard to look for the right information.
Some experts in the industry, together with Groningen Seaports, as our “client”, were benevolent to help us during our process.
Great team work and the right guidance were the perfect combination to provide a solid final result with a good presentation and final report. Some experts in the industry, together with Groningen Seaports, as our “client”, were benevolent to help us during our process. After finishing the project, we were also invited to present and discuss our findings at the office of Groningen Seaports, after which we went on a tour through the port areas, a nice opportunity and a fun experience!