Author: Wu, Xiaofan
Title: Analyzing liner shipping operations with bigger ships and larger alliances : theory and practice
Advisors: Luo, Meifeng (LMS)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies
Pages: xi, 132 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: The liner shipping industry is under a series of continuous changes: ships are getting bigger, the market is more volatile and more carriers are joining larger alliances. Theory predicted that larger ships would adopt 'hub-and-spoke' structure in liner shipping networks and call fewer ports in their services. That may intensify the competition among regional container ports for the hub position. However, the empirical study of liner shipping services calling Chinese ports in 2011 to 2015 shows that carriers are not calling fewer ports as ship size increases. The apparent contradiction between the theory and the observed facts motivated this study to answer following questions: What is the current relationship between port call decisions and ship size? How do liner shipping operators decide port calls with large containerships in a competitive market? How do large containerships and alliances affect the financial performance of liner shipping companies? Firstly, the thesis collects information of liner shipping services calling Chinese ports in 2011 and 2015 from Alphaliner database and identifies the effects of service attributes on hinterland/port choice by ordered logit regressions and OLS regressions. This study finds that increasing ship size within a certain range leads to more clusters/ports visit. Beyond that, larger ships visit fewer clusters, not necessary fewer ports. Therefore, for a hinterland with a high demand for shipping, there can be more than one hub in the same region. Secondly, this thesis establishes an analytical model of port selection behavior in liner shipping services. The decision on the number of port calls is analyzed in both transshipment and no-transshipment case. Specifically, the study introduces the model in a duopoly market where two operators compete using price discount. It identifies the optimal condition on the number of port calls in a single-operator market and that in competitive market. The simulated results of liner shipping services between China and North America in 2011 and 2015 show that there may be turning points. Before these points, larger ships require calling more ports to fill up the capacity; after these points, larger ships will call fewer ports, as it requires a higher demand at the port to cover the fixed port access cost.
Finally, the thesis investigates the moderating effects of large containerships and alliances on how the external/internal factors affect the financial performance of operators. This empirical study involves 20 liner shipping companies during 2001 to 2015. By a fixed-effect panel data model with Log-Log regression, this study shows that the revenue of the company dominated with large containerships (CDWLS) is more sensitivity to prices, average ship size and capacity change; joining alliances can alleviate these effects. The operating cost of CDWLS is less sensitive to the change in bunker price and their operating cost can even decrease as the average ship size increases. Joining alliances can bring companies economies of scope, and reduce the impact of inflation. However, joining alliances can increase the impact of bunker prices on operating cost. It can also reduce the benefits of economies of scale for CDWLS to increase their average ship size due to the lack of flexibility. The main contributions of this research are two folds. In theory, it supplements the 'Hub-and-Spoke' network structure in maritime transportation networks by adding some critical condition for its validity. The port call decision model in competitive market also supports the hypothesis of 'contestable market' in previous research. The third study tests the moderating effects of large ships and alliance in financial performance. In practice, this research helps both port and liner shipping operators in policy making and investment decisions. For ports, it is the demand of the region that determinates whether to expand the port and invest in facilities. For liner shipping operators, they should consider both external and internal factors in large ship investment and cooperation strategy decisions.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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