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Privatization and regulation of the seaport industry

Listed author(s):
  • Trujillo, Lourdes
  • Nombela, Gustavo

With containerized shipping, maritime transport has changed profoundly. Among other things, it has shifted from labor-intensive to more capital-intensive activities, including larger specialized ships that require substantial investments in port infrastructure and equipment. Integrated transport chains have reduced transport costs so much that a shipper may find a distant port cheaper than a closer one. Modern ports must be competitive on times and prices for their services. Seaports must be integrated within logistical chains to serve their many functions. An efficient seaport requires infrastructure, superstructure, equipment, adequate connections to other modes of transport, a well-motivated management, and qualified employees. The public sector has been an important port organizer in the past, but private participation in port operations and infrastructure could make ports significantly more competitive. The authors provide an overview of changes in maritime activity, discuss concession contracts (a key instrument of privatization), and analyze how regulatory mechanisms affect such factors as seaport tariffs, port congestion, port safety, the quality of cargo handling, and relevant indicators of performance, finances, and factor productivity. They describe how an optimal seaport system should allocate tasks between the various institutions involved, including the port authority. The degree of a seaport's decentralization, they conclude, depends on a country size, the number of ports it has, and its legal tradition. Among several national governments in Latin America--Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela--there is an evident trend toward decentralization and greater autonomy for port authorities.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2181.

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Date of creation: 30 Sep 1999
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2181
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  1. Crampes, Claude & Estache, Antonio, 1997. "Regulatory tradeoffs in designing concession contracts for infrastructure networks," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1854, The World Bank.
  2. Kerf, M. & Gray, R.D. & Irwin, T. & Levesque, C. & Taylor, R.R. & Klein, M., 1998. "Concessions for Infrastructure. A Guide to their Design and Award," Papers 399, World Bank - Technical Papers.
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