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Efficiency of World Ports in Container and Bulk Cargo (oil, coal, ores and grain)


  • Olaf Merk


  • Thai-Thanh Dang


Port efficiency is an important indicator of port performance; more efficient ports lower transportation costs and facilitate imports and exports of a country. Despite the importance of the subject, the exisiting port efficiency studies have almost exclusively focused on container ports. This Working Paper aims to fill that gap by calculating efficiency scores of world ports per cargo type (containers, oil, coal, iron ore and grain). These calculcations have been made using a database constructed for this purpose. Several findings can be derived from these calculations. Significant improvements can be made when the technical efficiency of ports is increased. Among the sample, gaps between terminal efficiency mostly reflected gaps in pure technical efficiency. When comparing the level of efficiency achieved by ports across commodities, technical gaps were more marked for container and oil terminals. Promoting policies to raise throughput levels in order to minimise production scale inefficiencies is another important area for improvement. Production scale inefficiencies arise when throughput levels are below or above optimal levels given the current capacity of terminal infrastructure. Such inefficiencies were mostly found in a substantial number of ports handling crude oil and iron ore, suggesting that efficiency is more sensitive and driven by exogenous factors related to traffic flows. The analysis also shows that the size of ports matters for port efficiency. The crude oil, iron-ore and grain ports have higher efficiency scores at larger total port size, suggesting that this size is more efficient because they can drive technological development. Finally, there are regional patterns emerging across commodities. Terminals in China are among the most efficient in handling coal bulk and containers with terminals in Southeast Asia. By contrast, the most efficient grain and iron-ore terminals are located in Latin America, and the most efficient crude-oil transhipment terminals are mostly found in the Gulf region. Further, Australia is also found to perform well in handling coal bulk and grains.

Suggested Citation

  • Olaf Merk & Thai-Thanh Dang, 2012. "Efficiency of World Ports in Container and Bulk Cargo (oil, coal, ores and grain)," OECD Regional Development Working Papers 2012/9, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:govaab:2012/9-en

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    More about this item


    port efficiency; ports; transportation;

    JEL classification:

    • L91 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Transportation: General
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise

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