Efficiency analysis of container ports and terminals

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Liu, Q. (2010)
  • Publisher: UCL (University College London)

In the past two decades the steady growth of seaborne trade has resulted in the increase of container ships, container ports and their terminals. The structure of the shipping market is, moreover, continuously evolving. On the carrier side, shipping companies form consortia and alliances; on the port side, global terminal operators and dedicated container terminals are emerging. The aim of this research is to evaluate the efficiency of container ports and terminals and to study how to improve the scale efficiency of any particular port/terminal. In particular we study how certain factors influence the efficiency of container ports and terminals. Regional container ports and global container terminals are examined based on the econometrics benchmarking method Stochastic Frontier Analysis (SFA). Two datasets are used, a panel dataset for 32 container ports in the North Mediterranean Sea over a nine-year period, and a cross-sectional dataset for 165 container terminals worldwide. Net-effect and gross-effect SFA models are applied to both datasets. Technical, scale and overall efficiencies of individual ports/terminals are evaluated. Operation and investment strategies are examined for selected ports and terminals. The majority of the container ports and terminals in our North Mediterranean Sea samples are found to be technically inefficient: 90% of container ports have their technical efficiency lower than 0.80; 95% of container terminals have their technical efficiency lower than 0.80. The research concludes that trading volume plays a key role in the efficiency of a container port. The annual percentage increase in port output is slower than what the technological improvement allows. Container terminals are proven to be more productive than multiple purpose terminals. Global terminal operators were not proven to out-perform local terminal operators as was expected. It was also found that the container terminal operation industry is over-scaled. The research findings here can potentially affect decisions made by carriers, terminal operators and policy makers, as it provides an overview of efficiencies for all container ports/terminals in the two datasets and also examines in detail the sources of inefficiency for individual ports.
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