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Author(s): Olaf Merk, Administrator Ports and Shipping, the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Paris, France

Ports have been ever-present throughout human civilisation, yet only in recent times have we witnessed the emergence of mega-ports. Mega-ports can be considered truly indispensable nodes of the current globalised economic system. But what are mega-ports, who needs them, how does a port become one of them, and should we be glad about them; these are the questions that this paper seeks to address.

What is a mega-port?

There are three dimensions to a megaport: the cargo volume it handles, the economic value it represents, and the land and water surface it utilises. Therefore, a mega-port can be ‘mega’ because of large throughput, economic force or sheer physical size. These dimensions can go together, but do not necessarily. For example, there are ports that handle a lot of cargo but do not generate that much economic value, because they do not have trade clusters (such as Singapore), industrial estates (such as Rotterdam) or thriving waterfronts (such as Barcelona) connected to the port. A mega-port has the power to contribute up to a third of a regional economy. There is a large variety in the size of port areas; some ports have large logistical and industrial areas integrated in or connected to a port, and some mega-ports take up to a third of the land surface of the city they are serving. I would suggest that only the ports that combine these three characteristics could be considered true mega-ports…

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Featured in the Edition:

The Mega-Ports Edition

PTI Edition 67 • Digital & Print
20 mega-ports feature in this special 20th anniversary edition. Also featuring Top 20 US Port Report from Zepol.



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