Port industry performance management



Professor Dr. Michaël Dooms, Solvay Business School, University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium


Port performance management has been a heated topic both in the industry and academia for the past 20 years, albeit on different levels and in a rather scattered way across performance levels – from the individual terminal operational efficiency, to country level data on maritime connectivity, as well as performance areas (operations, socio-economic, environmental, governance).

On the academic level, port related research has mostly focused on comparisons of port terminal efficiency, using various approaches of which the data envelopment analysis (DEA) technique, although criticised, has been rather prominent. On the port industry level, interest has been relatively low compared to other infrastructure industries, most notably the airport industry where several independent industry performance management initiatives already exist. Examples include the annual ATRS Global Airport Benchmarking Report, led by an academic network supported by individual industry partners, as well as the airport service quality (ASQ) initiative run within the Airports Council International. Most performance indicators developed within these initiatives focus on either operational performance data obtained from network members or perceptions of user service quality gathered through surveys.

Current state of port industry level performance initiatives

At the terminal level in ports, we do however note the existence of the CTQI initiative by Germanischer Lloyd, and more recently the Journal of Commerce ( JOC) port productivity report based on carrier information for specific terminals. On the level of user perceptions of service quality, we note the AAPA Customer Service Initiative implemented for East Coast US ports. At the port level, attention has mainly focused on environmental performance where both the European Seaport Organization (with the ECOPORTS initiative) and IAPH are playing leading roles. Besides these limited initiatives on a terminal and port level, we also refer to several macro-economic oriented studies by supranational institutions (OECD, World Bank, World Economic Forum, UNCTAD) such as country performance indices on various components of infrastructure quality and connectivity.

Currently however, a ..

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