Strategies Used by Port Authorities to Coordinate their Hinterland

Usage of incentives Coordinate operations of freight actors.
Optimal usage of transport chains.
Usage of preferential tariff structure.
Inter-firm alliances Vertical integration (along transport chains).
Horizontal integration (between competitors).
Alliance between a maritime shipping company and a terminal operator (vertical).
Equipment / container pools (horizontal).
Organizational scope Vertical integration where an actor decides to penetrate a new market.
A maritime shipping company involved in port terminal operations.
A port authority developing an inland port.
Collective action Public / private partnerships to create logistic zones.
Each actor contributes within its realm of expertise.
Development of port community systems.

Source: adapted from Van der Horst, M.R. and P.W. de Langen (2008) “Coordination in hinterland transport chains: a major challenge for the seaport community”, Journal of Maritime Economics & Logistics, Vol. 10, pp. 108-129.

Globalization and the growing complexity of supply chains are inciting port authorities to undertake strategies aiming at a better level of coordination of their hinterland:

  • Usage of incentives. Coordinate operations of freight actors so that the usage of transport chains and the underlying assets is more optimal. It can involve using a preferential rate structure for customers that provide a minimum volume or that meet a level of reliability. Others will be incited to follow since the reward is a lower cost access to the infrastructures.
  • Inter-firm alliances. Concerns two types of alliances. The first is vertical integration (along transport chains) where, for instance, a maritime shipping company and a terminal operator can agree to better coordinate their services. The second is horizontal integration (between competitors) where, for instance an equipment or container pool can be established to improve the level of asset utilization.
  • Organizational scope. Vertical integration process where an actor decides to penetrate a new market to expand or add value to its activities. For instance, a maritime shipping company can be involved in port terminal operations. Also, a port authority could be involved in the development an inland port as a strategy to alleviate congestion and expand to market potential of its hinterland.
  • Collective actions. A series of strategies under the leadership of the port authority such as the setting of public / private partnerships to create a logistic zone. Each actor contributes within its realm of expertise. The development of port community systems is also a collective action that is receiving attention.

The development of inland ports and logistical zones appear to be an emerging paradigm. Still, port authorities tend to be reluctant to undertake partnerships with inland ports, mostly out of concern of losing added value activities and employment. Also, inland ports may promote port competition by offering access to new freight corridors and can thus challenge the fundamental hinterland of a port and its related cargo.

However, there is an increasing level of coordination between port authorities and inland ports, particularly among the largest ports. The later tend to have more congestion issues as well as the volume and the financial and technical capability to undertake these initiatives. In Europe, the dominant strategy is the setting of dedicated rail or barge services towards inland port, while in North America port authorities tend to set up logistical zones within their adjacent areas to better anchor traffic.