Horizon Scanning is a systematic examination of information to identify potential threats, risks, emerging issues, and opportunities allowing for better preparedness. It is an organized and formal process of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating value-added information to support decision-making.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other recent disruptions caused by interconnected risks, e.g. geopolitical and trade tensions, are a stark reminder of how organizations, including ports, can be exposed to wide-ranging risks. Ports can use Horizon Scanning (HS) to monitor and identify potential threats, as well as opportunities and issues that may be reshaping the short and the longer-term operating landscapes. Its value is that it makes it possible to consider the complexity of a threat, challenge assumptions and review how risk events could occur. HS helps identify emerging issues through early warning signs and provide insights into how to organize and explore these signals. It is essential to obtain appropriate input from sources (e.g. experts and organizations) involved in risk assessments and is widely used by governments and large corporations as part of their overall planning processes.

Information and tools are widely available, allowing smaller entities, such as ports, to undertake a HS scan and support developments by:

  • Deepening the understanding of the driving forces affecting the future development of a policy or a strategic area.
  • Identifying knowledge gaps and bring into focus new areas of research required to understand driving forces better.
  • Building consensus among stakeholders about the issues and how to tackle them.
  • Identify and make explicit some of the difficult policy choices and trade-offs that may need to be made.
  • Creating a new resilient strategy more reflective of changing external conditions.
  • Mobilizing port stakeholders to act in respect of identified risk areas.

A HS can be used to inform strategy and feed into port planning. The exercise around the most likely future events and ensure continuous update as the situation evolves with new potential disruptions identified and existing risks abated. The port authority should be the core driver of a HS exercise, with key stakeholders (e.g. terminal operators or hinterland carriers) included to provide a more comprehensive picture.

Key steps in a HS process include:

  • Identifying key stakeholders. Gather relevant port-related individuals and organizations to work with to obtain a diversity of views.
  • Kicking-off. Explain the objective of HS, how it will be conducted, and how results will be used.
  • Researching. Setting a timeframe for research, assigning single issues to specific individuals/teams to be researched, reviewing the literature and best practices, and identifying potential risks.
  • Preparing outputs. Stakeholders to document their research and submit viewpoints.
  • Combining. Collate the various relevant viewpoints and present them to the group for discussion.
  • Monitoring and reviewing. Decide which key risks would require further investigation and conduct an in-depth analysis.
  • Engaging. Stakeholders should be engaged around outputs and provide feedback. All port stakeholders beyond the select group that was involved in the HS exercise should be involved.

Additional information about HS is available HERE.