Many smaller ports in Cornwall and Devon (CAD) are situated in environmentally sensitive habitats and generate benefits for stakeholders and local communities. Such ports are often embedded in tourist based economies. Increasing environmental legislation is placing a strain on the resources of smaller ports making compliance a threat to profitability and thus the future of some ports and local economies. Over-reliance on environmental management systems (EMS) across the ports industry has predominated over the importance of holistic sustainability. This project develops and disseminates a port sustainability management system (PSMS) in CAD, assisting ports to plan marine and maritime operations more sustainably, to facilitate mitigation of potential risks, to increase knowledge and awareness of port sustainability, and to promote the adoption of a proactive stance towards sustainable port management. A constructivist philosophy suited a multiple methods research design which included ethnographic content analysis (ECA), statistical verification of qualitative coding, nine scoping interviews, and eight semi-structured interviews during the main phase of data collection. The seven Harbour Masters (HMs) in this phase represented all port governance types found in the UK. Charmaz’s grounded theory (GT) methodology guided the collection and analysis of primary data between August 2012 and February 2013 to create new theory using an inductive constructivist approach. Validation by fifteen of the thirty local HMs during industry testing revealed numerous advantages and benefits of deploying PSMS which is estimated to generate £50,000 worth of benefits per port annually, and £3,865,005 for the 15 participating ports over 5 years. A new model of smaller port sustainability has emerged. PSMS has eleven pillars of sustainability which underpin the spectrum of port operations. Within this model, each pillar is equally important in contributing to the overall sustainability of a port, and neglect of one could jeopardise sustainability overall and potentially cause a chain reaction with other pillars.

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