Institutional analyses of regional inland waterway transport systems

Date: 15 December 2014

Venue: University of Antwerp, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp

PhD candidate: Jinyu Li

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Theo Notteboom

Short description: PhD defense Jinyu Li - Faculty of Applied Economics

Abstract: The cost-effectiveness and environment-friendliness of Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) makes it an appropriate transport mode in the pursuit of a sustainable development strategy. Institutions and governance play an essential role in the development of an IWT system. As many rivers and canals cross national and regional boundaries, it is important that the integrated use of waterways is taken forward on an intergovernmental collaborative basis (INA, 2009).
This research discusses the role of institution and governance in the course of developing IWT. Evidences are drawn from three cases respectively – the Yangtze River and the Pearl River in China and the Flemish Waterways in Belgium. The former two cases will illustrate the evolution and current conflicts of IWT in China, against the background of China's transformation from a planned economy to a market economy; the last case discusses decision making processes, IWT governance reform and relationships among parties involved in IWT governance in Belgium, against the background of European economic integration. Meanwhile, the theories of institutions and evolutionary economic geography in Economic Geography will be applied to find out the mechanism of how institutions and port governance impact on IWT in various regions. We find that the IWT development and inland port development in both China and Belgium are not conditioned by path dependence, but also are path evolved. A similar port governance structure can have different effects on inland ports in various regions, because they are constrained by external social and economic environments. A different port governance structure can have similar effects in certain aspects, because certain economic rules and market rules are the same in various regions. This academic research presents a comparative study to illustrate the interactions between IWT development and institutional evolution including inland port governance. We argue that, in different regions, it is necessary to apply a suitable institutional structure instead of a uniform institutional structure or governance on IWT, due to various external social, historical and natural conditions.