Global trade connectivity can be understood at three interdependent scales, each representing a component of connectivity.
- The first component concerns what is known as foreland connectivity, forming a network of gateways and hubs. The network reflects the structure of international trade and its web of interactions. The main actors involved in this network are maritime shipping companies, with air freight playing a niche but strategic role. This network is organized according to the commercial strategies of the carriers that, at the same time, must service their customers and maximize their assets. For maritime shipping, networks are mainly organized as inter-range services with transshipment hubs at major intermediary locations. For air carriers, this often leads to the setting of hub and spoke networks.
- The second component concerns the connectivity taking place within main gateways and hubs articulating global trade flows (the connectors). Global connectivity is articulated by specific locations that are very important commercial nexuses. For instance, the world’s 20 largest container ports handle about 46% of the world’s container trade. This connectivity is the outcome of geographical factors (e.g. good maritime accessibility) that were improved over time with investments in infrastructures such as transport terminals, local connectors, and logistics zones.
- The third component concerns hinterland connectivity enabling each gateway to access its market area. This network is organized according to the setting of corridors and locations organizing flows within these corridors such as inland ports. Depending on the context, strategic rail, highway and fluvial corridors were established, enabling to improve the connectivity of entire regions and enabling them to participate more effectively to global trade. Hinterland connectivity is particularly important for remote regions and landlocked countries.