Global freight transport and logistics. Investigation of port-hinterland relationships and interaction within global supply chains
KeywordsPort-hinterland ; Transport corridors ; Value system ; Key Value Indicators (KVIs) ; Fuzzy logic
Considering the continuous rise of international seaborne trade volumes, which mainly stems from the increasing globalization of supply chains, and following a contextual analysis of the structure of the port network vis-a-vis the organization of the transport and logistics system in the two most important trading regions of the world (i.e. Europe and the U.S.), this doctoral dissertation aims to further enhance port-hinterland intelligence by analysing first the current state-of-the-art, and by devising next a new corridor-based, value-oriented approach that can more holistically guide action and project prioritization at corridor-level and better inform relevant investment decision-making, contributing in that way towards improving the connectivity of ports with captive and more importantly contestable hinterland regions. More specifically, a port-hinterland research taxonomy is devised within the dissertation, categorizing relevant contributions that have been published to-date into four thematic clusters i.e. (i) port-hinterland concept evolution, (ii) port-hinterland transport and logistical integration, (iii) port competition from a hinterland perspective, and (iv) coordination and cooperation strategies of port-hinterland stakeholders. This state-of-the-art enables to better comprehend how port-hinterland research evolved over time, what were the new challenges that were introduced and what novel methodological approaches were devised for addressing them thus assess how disruptive was the impact of new business practices and technological advancements that were up-taken on the port-hinterland context and its relative business dynamics. The analysis that was performed also allows to draw valuable insights on all key elements that are now shaping and characterizing the port-hinterland context, as well as on existing gaps that are still to be addressed. These were found to be the less attention placed on corridor-based and value-oriented approaches for analysing the port-hinterland context, compared to network-based and performance-related ones, as well as the lower emphasis provided on the opportunities that port-hinterland corridor management initiatives have to offer for inducing further efficiencies into the hinterland transport and logistics system. Building upon those insights and addressing the aforementioned research gaps, a port-hinterland corridor value system is developed within the dissertation (with a focus on the European context given its intrinsic setting), which can provide corridor managing bodies as well as the whole port-hinterland community with a new and holistic perspective of analysis and business thinking, considerably strengthening the collaborative environment among corridor members. A switch from a performance to a value system thinking appears to be an important prerequisite for better planning for the future, given its ever increasing uncertainty, with the relative business dynamics changing now a lot faster than before. The value system comprises of two sub-systems, where in the first the corridor to be examined is defined by the evaluator (i.e. a corridor managing body is considered to be the most appropriate actor to undertake such a role), and in the second the four evaluation mechanisms are set i.e. the evaluation perspective (core value) and the corresponding evaluation dimensions, sub-dimensions and Key Value Indicators (KVIs). Once determined, values of the latter are normalized following a hybrid method that combines the ‘Distance to target’ and ‘Min-max’ methods, and a 5-layer aggregation process then takes place with values at each layer being equally weighted. This process has been structured based on fuzzy logic, with a cascaded (combined) fuzzy tree presenting how the core value of the port-hinterland corridor under examination is determined at the last layer. The system was applied on a real-world operational corridor for testing its adaptability and ease of application. It enabled to extract useful insights and set targeted recommendations for further increasing the corridor’s value, thus allowed to highlight (a) how the system may be transferred to other contexts and be scaled-up or down or be readjusted for properly adhering to the characteristics of the respective corridor, and (b) how this line of research may be further extended in the near future (i.e. by considering other evaluation perspectives, set-up the system as an app and provide automatic data insertion capabilities from available sources, identify underlying factors influencing KVI values and set-up causal-loop diagrams / models representing their interrelations, and investigate which are the main drivers for transiting from the current ‘govern by performance’ to a ‘govern by value’ approach).