Container port productivity : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Massey University, Palmerston North campus
The international container port industry has recently gone through a process of rationalising the
number of ports in response to increasing vessel sizes. Continued globalisation in trade means that
container volumes are concentrated towards main consolidation points and hub ports. The aim of this
research is to investigate the existence of a relationship between the capacity utilisation, volume and
productivity of container ports. This will allow the research to provide insight to the resulting
productivity impacts from the continued trend in the consolidation of container ports. Academic theory
and previous research suggests that increased volume and capacity utilisation will mean downward
pressure on productivity.
Inland hub facilities provide an alternative means of quickly providing additional port capacity for the
ports remaining after consolidation which is traditionally cheaper than port land or technology
increases. This research also investigates whether the use of inland hubs by container ports impacts
on the relationships throughput volume, capacity utilisation or productivity of the integrated seaport.
The context for this research is New Zealand, which has a relatively high number of international
container ports that are highly competitive across the small domestic container industry. The New
Zealand port sector is predicted to go through significant change and rationalisation over the short to
medium term as some ports choose not to or cannot afford to invest in the required infrastructure to
handle the larger container vessels, although the speed and results of port rationalisation has been
heavily debated over the past decade.
Collection of publically available information on the productivity, volume and capacity utilisation
produced a quality data set for the six ports that handle ninety percent of New Zealand containerised
trade. Regression and statistical analysis is completed on this data set to outline the existence and
significance of any relationships. Although this data set is not primarily collected by the author, it is of
high quality as has been collected by an objective government agency for the specific purposes of
consistently monitoring productivity and growth of New Zealand seaport on a regular basis. The use
of secondary data brings with it drawbacks in relation to quality and reliability, therefore more detailed
analysis was also completed for an individual port using data collected by the author directed from
port operating system. This allows for the confirmation of conclusions developed throughout the
analysis of national level data.
This research expands the current academic knowledge with analysis in a smaller trade and port
environment than the traditional examples of America or Europe. This research mostly confirms the
relationships between volume, capacity and productivity of container ports experienced in
international academic literature, however it also shows that the relationship between productivity and
volume may be positive (opposite to other literature) dependent on the port, the nature of the volume
change and the level of utilisation. It also shows that inland port facilities can be used as a means to
improve the productivity and reduce delays in port operations. Finally, this research advances New
Zealand academic literature by providing the first detailed analysis of the relationship between
capacity, volume and productivity in New Zealand container ports.