Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Port management and governance in a post-COVID-19 era: quo vadis?


With the emergence of port economics as a distinct academic discipline some 30 years ago, researchers have invariably perceived and analyzed ports as some sort of hybrid organizations which, although institutionally anchored in public administration and governance structures, are often desperately striving for more managerial autonomy that would enable them to compete in a landscape of increasing regional port competition. 

This rather awkward public-private symbiotic model has persisted over the years, assisted in no small measure by the interest of academics and funding agencies to classify ports in well-structured definitions of port ‘models’, such as landlord, tool and service ports. 

In this, admittedly long, editorial, Theo and I have tried to show, through many examples from real-life day-to-day port management experiences, that a new approach to port management and governance is needed going forward: without diverting much from a port’s institutional ‘ecosystem’, port stakeholders, together with an enlightened port management team, can develop flexible strategies to cope efficiently and resiliently with major disruptions, such as those introduced by the impact of COVID-19 on port- and supply chain operations by and large. 

The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t provide us with a better example, highlighting the disruptions caused to port and supply chain operations by the blank sailings of mega-carriers, their consequently larger call sizes, and the challenges these developments pose on quay-side and stacking-yard operations; gate congestion; and congestion on connecting infrastructure and city traffic. 

As it is common to MEL editorials, we advise our readers not to skip our many footnotes which, at times, furnish more interesting, if not ‘entertaining’, information than the main text that invoked them.

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