Connecting International Ports through Gaming

When international ports are investigating whether they want to cooperate, they are confronted with many challenges. First, both ports need to see sufficient benefits for cooperation. When both decide to move forward with the partnership, understanding the other party is a crucial factor for success. However, it is not something that comes easily. Parties speak different languages, there are other cultural rules, they have different opinions and interests. For example, when the port of Rotterdam sees an opportunity in the port developments in Johor, Malaysia, they send experienced professionals from both sides to develop plans together. While they work on these plans, parties try to get a better understanding of the other persons at the table. Professional stakeholder management is one of the many competencies that the Port of Rotterdam invests in.

In situations like these, role playing and management games have proven to be an effective learning tool. Gaming is one of the few methods that allows you to put yourself in somebody else’s position, even just for a day.

With this in mind, Elias Becker (Business Analyst of the Port International department at the Port of Rotterdam Authority) and Anne Geurts (stakeholder management and gaming expert at consultancy firm Twynstra Gudde) challenged students of the Hogeschool Rotterdam, to design a negotiation game. With this game, future professionals on both sides (Rotterdam and Johor) could be trained in getting a better understanding of the other party’s culture, positions and interests. In a ‘Pressure Cooker’ of three days (see: ‘Pressure Cooker 2013 Haven en Maritiem’ on Facebook), the students analyzed the key players in both Rotterdam and Johor.  Then they had an intensive brainstorm about what roles should be included in this game and what topics should be discussed at the table. Finally, they even created a concept of game materials. Parties are now discussing how this concept game can be developed further.

Many organizations in the maritime sector have to cooperate with other organizations. The reason may be to look for business opportunities together, or to discuss possibly conflicting interests, like with environmental organizations.  In any case, the maritime sector is well aware that nobody can operate alone. Dealing with different interests, professional stakeholder management and even playing games to practice these competencies, are areas of expertise that are very valuable for the sector. So for all you young talents out there, with a passion for the maritime sector, this may be a line of work for you to consider!


Elias Becker
Business Analyst of the Port International department Port of Rotterdam


Anne Geurts
Mutual Gains consultant at Twynstra Gudde

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