To dare is to do: Port Endeavor game inspires concrete SDG action in the world’s ports

Role-playing game uses “goldmine” database of port sustainability projects, with players taking decisions port managers do in real life on integrating the UN SDGs into their business and operations

Abu Dhabi, World Ports Conference 31 October – 2 November

At the recent World Ports Conference organised by the International Association of Ports & Harbors in Abu Dhabi, UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade program headed by Chief Mark Assaf participated in an open panel on the future of IAPH’s World Ports Sustainability Program alongside the CEOs of the ports of Seattle (US), HAROPA (Le Havre, Paris, Rouen, France) and the ports project leader of IKEA Supply Chain. This included a discussion on how to further develop the proven, successful Port Endeavor game within the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) in order to amplify industry-wide SDG awareness.

During his intervention, Assaf emphasised the crucial role the Port Endeavor game plays to accelerate the adoption of the UN SDGs in the maritime supply chain:

“With over a thousand port professionals having already played the game in three languages in 20 countries, we have seen more than just capacity building on how ports prioritise SDG action in investments, actions and reactions. It develops port people’s soft skills, too often forgotten, and encourages team spirit and collaboration between internationally minded professionals. Lasting ties and connections between people are created by the memory of the “gameplay” which we have seen from Cotonou to Lima, Durres to Mumbai, and Rotterdam to Paramaribo.”

UNCTAD TrainForTrade’s Mark Assaf (right) speaking with IAPH Technical Director Antonis Michail (left) during the IAPH 2023 World Ports Conference in Abu Dhabi

Players represent real roles (from HSEQ officer and Sustainability Manager to Board Member and CEO) of a fictitious port, competing to earn the most SDGs to become the most sustainable one of the gameplay, by taking decisions to invest in sustainable project choices selected and adapted from the WPSP database for the game. With limited budget resource, their focus is on achieving common goals in climate and energy, digitalization, community building, environmental care, health safety and security and infrastructure, emphasizing the diversity of SDGs applied. Their ports also get hit with real life events from anything from an oil spill to a hurricane or even pandemic, and have to overcome dilemmas together to score the highest.

Mark Assaf added : “Perhaps one of the most satisfying experiences so far started with a gameplay at one of our courses in Valencia, Spain, when the President and senior team of the Peruvian National Port Authority (NPA) were so inspired by playing the game that they took the decision to use it as a basis for reviewing SDG-related activities across the country's 55 key port terminals. It then made sustainability an organizational mandate and a permanent element in port management with a new directive – at both NPA and individual port levels – to implement activities related to the SDGs. In 2023, four goals related to port management have been prioritized: zero hunger; gender equality; affordable and clean energy; and climate action.”

The game, which is a triple venture between UNCTAD TrainForTrade, IAPH, and APEC, the training arm of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges International, is an official candidate of the staff engagement category of UN’s 2023 Secretary-General Awards. This UN-community scheme recognises innovation excellence in promoting SDGs.

Mark Assaf (left) hands over the IAPH 2023 Sustainability Award for Digitalization to Halifax Port Authority CEO Captain Allan Gray (right)

Mark Assaf was also on hand in Abu Dhabi as an expert member of the IAPH jury who judged 86 new projects this year from 50 ports in 28 countries to hand over the IAPH 2023 Sustainability Award for digitalization to the Canadian Port of Halifax for its DEF2 project during the gala dinner of the conference. Describing the World Ports Sustainability project database as a “goldmine”, Assaf concluded:

“The winning projects this year will, as in previous years, feed into new content for the Port Endeavor game. We have also made game dynamics easier for moderators to deploy gameplays remotely. We also plan to establish a community of Port Endeavor players around the world who can interact and share real project ideas and experiences among themselves, daring each other to do what they have played.”

Story contact : Victor Shieh, IAPH Communications Director

Email :

About IAPH

Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has developed into a global alliance of 180 port authorities as well as 148 port-related businesses. Comprised of 84 different nationalities across the world’s continents, member ports handle approximately one third of the world’s sea-borne trade and well over 60% of the world container traffic. IAPH leads global port industry initiatives on decarbonization and energy transition, risk and resilience management, and accelerating digitalization in the maritime transport chain. The IAPH’s World Ports Sustainability Program has grown into the reference database of best practices of ports applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals and integrating them into their businesses –