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The hierarchical configuration of the container port industry: an application of multiple linkage analysis

Cullinane, Kevin; Wang, Yuhong


Kevin Cullinane

Yuhong Wang


This paper aims to provide a hierarchical configuration of the container port industry. It attempts to do so by determining a port hierarchy and then, utilising this, deriving the nature of the spatial interactions between sample ports in East Asia. The former is determined by assessing the relative importance of a port within the given network, and the latter is mainly based on the significance of network flow movements. Rather than focusing purely on the economic or topological meaning or significance of the available shipping capacity, this paper aims to determine port hierarchy by addressing the spatial profile of network flow data as a supplementary indicator. An approach based on graph theory—Multiple Linkage Analysis—is described and applied to examining the profile of capacity flow on each linkage within a sample network consisting of 39 major container ports on the main east–west routes. The value on a linkage is defined in terms of the available shipping capacity between pairs of ports within a given unit time. As the output from this analysis, all significant connections are separated out from the initial flow matrix. The position of a particular port within the network port hierarchy relies upon the number of significant flows connected to the port and the origins/destinations of those flows. The results reveal a strong correlation between the importance of a port as indicated by its position in the hierarchy and the number of significant connections into or out of it. A further clustering analysis, based on the above distinction, is performed for the hierarchical mapping of the container port industry in a selected area and to provide a better understanding of inter-port competition.


Cullinane, K., & Wang, Y. (2012). The hierarchical configuration of the container port industry: an application of multiple linkage analysis. Maritime Policy and Management, 39, 169-187.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012
Deposit Date Apr 4, 2012
Print ISSN 0308-8839
Electronic ISSN 1464-5254
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Pages 169-187
Keywords Container ports; spatial interactions; network flow; shipping capacity;
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