The proliferation of hub-and-spoke operations in maritime container transportation has resulted in the widespread consolidation of traffic flows. Utilising liner shipping network configurations, this paper assesses the impact of freight traffic consolidation in the container port industry by exploring the spatial pattern of traffic flow movements and identifying the variety of roles that container ports play within this context. On the basis of the network concept, the spatial inequality of freight traffic consolidation is determined by the density and direction of all meaningful connections (i.e. significant flows) identified by applying Multiple Linkage Analysis (MLA) to an initial traffic flow matrix.
The effectiveness of the chosen methodology is tested empirically using a sample comprising the 18 major container ports in East Asia, together with another 21 important container ports located on the East–West trading route. Based on this sample network, the spatial structure of traffic flow consolidation reveals the nature and structure of hub-and-spoke operations within a port system, the relative hub-dependence of ports, the variety of roles which individual ports play within the overall structure of inter-port interactions and the hierarchical configuration of the port industry structure. The paper concludes that MLA offers new insights into the distributional inequality of traffic flows, the spatial and economic interactions between ports and the extent to which hinterlands overlap. Furthermore, the analysis clearly shows that inter-port relationships can no longer be evaluated as isolated phenomena; any change in a specific port’s competitiveness will directly impact upon the structure of the whole maritime transportation system. Port authorities and terminal operators will need, therefore, to carefully analyse and disentangle specific inter-port relationships in order to provide the most appropriate basis for their decision making.
Wang, Y., & Cullinane, K. (2014). Traffic consolidation in East Asian container ports: a network flow analysis. Transportation research. Part A, Policy and practice, 61C, 152-163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2014.01.007