Economic assessment of management reform in European seaports

Date: 1 September 2015

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

Time: 4:00 PM

PhD candidate: Patrick Verhoeven

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Eddy Van de Voorde

Short description: PhD defence Patrick Verhoeven - Faculty of Applied Economics

Abstract: In most seaports around the world, port management is in the hands of a port authority. A port authority can increase the competitiveness of its port by performing its own functions in a facilitator or entrepreneurial fashion, with the objective of decreasing the generalised cost of passing cargo or passengers through the port. The ability of the port authority to influence generalised costs depends on its operational configuration and a number of governance factors. Port governance in Europe largely converges around regionally-based traditions. Port authorities managing ports that have outgrown their local importance however appear to be converging to a different, more independent, model. The potential of EU policy and law could reinforce this trend and could be seen as an opportunity in the context of port management reform. A port management reform process should start from the objective to improve the competitiveness of the port. Still, the process is often anything but rational. The involvement of a government level which is less directly involved in the governance of the port authority may help staying on course. Measuring the economic impact of port management reform is a necessary but challenging task. A distinction can be made between the economic impact of reform on the port authority itself and the competitiveness of the port as such. Improved economic performance of the port authority may have an immediate negative impact on the out-of-pocket costs of port customers. Whereas port authorities, regardless of who owns them, should be free from political intervention, it does not mean they should be free from regulatory oversight. A balance needs to be found between, on the one hand, having a strong port authority that is an equal match for tenants and customers and, on the other hand, avoiding abuse of market power. Future port management reforms should pay particular attention to multiple port governance concepts. Whatever the choices made in the end, it is important that the impact of reform is duly monitored, taking into account that positive effects of reform may wear off.