Aviation Academy

Who governs and what is governed in port governance: A review study


Based on an intensive literature review, this paper investigates and presents generalized answers to the two basic questions of port governance, namely who governs and what is governed. There are totally 77 studies selected as the core literature sample according to a five-step approach. The results from literature review show evidences in favor of the important roles played by governmental organizations and port organizations as the main governing bodies of port governance. Furthermore, our analysis shows first, that multilevel governance has become a notable feature of port governance. Second, there are increasing involvements by national or regional levels of government in some countries such as the USA, Brazil, China. Third, port authorities at local level are generally holding the centre-stage position with further autonomy in managing port operations. Fourth, not-for-profit organizations related to port activities play the role of coordinators in port governance. Finally, different governance regimes with different specific governing actors for different port classifications can be identified for many nations. This study shows that fundamentally institutional arrangements and specific port activities are the two basic categories of what is governed. The institutional arrangements determine the port governance configuration and allocation of responsibilities of port activities. There are 12 groups of specific port activities within five categories identified in port governance.

Since the 1990s, with the increasing popularity of the concept of governance, port governance has grown to an important analytical lens in the port academia. More and more port reforms in the international arena are analyzed under the light of port governance. Meanwhile, some theoretical or base studies are emerging with focuses on the basic issues associated with port governance, such as the port governance model (Brooks and Cullinane, 2006), the relationship between port governance model and port performance (Brooks and Pallis, 2008), the interactions between institutions, port governance reforms and port authority routines (Notteboom et al., 2013) and the common characteristics of the port governance reform processes (Brooks et al., 2017). Despite extensive analysis of port governance, port governance studies remain incipient and it is hard to answer the four basic questions surrounding the port governance namely who governs, what is governed, how is it governed, and for what purpose (Vieira et al., 2014). Having a good understanding of these basic questions can allow us to get closer to the nature of port governance, which is very important in helping policy and decision makers to effectively address practical port governance issues they are facing.

Reference Zhang, Q., Geerlings, H., El Makhloufi, A., & Chen, S. (2018). Who governs and what is governed in port governance: A review study. Transport Policy, 64, 51-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2018.01.019
1 May 2018

Publication date

May 2018


Qiang Zhang
Harry Geerlings
Shun Chen


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