Two concepts reconcile ports and the markets they serve; the foreland and the hinterland. Both are binding imports and exports activities and the corresponding maritime segments. The above figure assumes that the hinterland must be completely serviced and that transportation costs are uniform. Neither port A, B, or C has an accessibility advantage over the others. When competition between ports is possible, there are two types of hinterlands:
- The fundamental (main) hinterland is the space over which a port has the dominant market share. The majority of the activities are thus using that port for imports or exports. Ports A, B, and C have a similar fundamental hinterland.
- The competition margins are areas where two or more ports compete. Users have the option of routing their cargoes through a port or another based on factors such as costs, capacity, or convenience. A competition margin could be different for imports or exports. Ports A, B, and C have a similar competition margin. In this case, the reason why port A is larger is that it has two competition margins while B and C only have one.
In the contemporary setting where inland transportation is getting more efficient, the fundamental hinterland is being challenged by intense port competition. This implies that competition margins are expanding, particularly in areas where several ports are present, which is particularly the case in North America and Europe.
The foreland is the ocean-ward mirror of the hinterland, referring to the ports and overseas markets linked by shipping services from a specific port. It is a maritime space where a port performs commercial relationships, namely with its overseas customers. Port D is part of the foreland of ports A, B, and C, where their originating cargo is bound to its hinterland.
With the emergence of feeder services and hub ports, the concept of foreland has been expanded as a port that can service a hinterland through a maritime link. The foreland is measured by the share of a port, or a group of ports, being taken over their foreland relatively to the forelands of other ports. It defines the interactions of a port with elements of the global economy.