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Small/Medium Sized Ports with Harmonised, Effective Re-engineered Processes

European Union
Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Maritime routes can form an effective, rapid and environmentally friendly link within the overall Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Small- and medium-sized ports (SMPs) can play a substantial role as nodes within the TEN-T, operating as both transhipment and distribution centres. To fill such a role, SMPs must be able to offer excellent connectivity and interoperability with the rest of the multimodal network. Moreover, SMPs must fulfil certain operational requirements within the logistics chain in order to attract, satisfy and retain their customers. It is in this area that the SPHERE project aimed to find practical solutions to assist the re-organisation of port processes for a more efficient operation and future development of SMPs.


The main objective of the SPHERE project was to apply the principles of 'Business Process Re-engineering' to small- and medium-sized ports, providing a practical tool for use by port administrations to redesign the port processes from scratch. The aim was to produce generic recommendations as well the methodology (or tool) which, when applied to specific ports, would produce processes that:

  • are simpler, more effective, transparent and flexible;
  • can fully exploit modern information/communication technology;
  • reflect the general shift towards customer and demand driven operations.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The main end-products of the project are the SPHERE Toolbox for Port Process Re-engineering (PPR), the SPHERE Port Simulation System, and generic suggestions for improvements. The 'toolbox' includes the following:

  • A set of tools to assist ports in understanding how they should apply Port Process Re-engineering and how they can progress it according to their particular operating conditions and business environment. These tools include the complete description of six port processes in terms of their individual tasks and actions (at a generic level).
  • A comprehensive evaluation procedure for choosing among alternative 'Scenarios of change'.

The Simulation System is a MODSIM-based object-oriented virtual environment where alternative re-engineering scenarios can be tested prior to any actual commitment of strategic funds. Port processes are simulated as commodities and information flows through the port, taking into account the whole port environment. The SPHERE simulator is totally generic and, although written for small- and medium-sized ports, it has the potential to depict and simulate the operation of any port. It can be customised for seaports, river ports, inland ports and freight centres.


Finally, a number of generic suggestions are made for re-engineering operations, complemented by general guidelines for managing the transition period and suggestions for a more effective adaptation to the framework of small/medium enterprises.

Policy implications

The project has proved that the main source of waste in port processes is fragmentation and the main source of fragmentation is the involvement of many entities from different backgrounds and with often-conflicting interests in the process.


As a remedy to this situation, the SPHERE concept of the Port Value System would bring the actors closer, to form logistics systems that are based on trust and co-operation. The concepts and tools developed in SPHERE assist any small/medium port (or even larger ones) to review its processes and improve them. Radical improvement of port processes would have a substantial positive impact on the competitiveness of SMPs and their customers, with significant impacts also at a pan-European level, such as:

  • increased efficiency of the TEN-T;
  • promotion of intermodal transport;
  • better access to the peripheral regions of the EU;
  • encouragement of decentralisation;
  • enhanced European competitiveness.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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