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Institutions, efficiency and the organisation of seaports: A comparative analysis

Pyvis, Justin (2014) Institutions, efficiency and the organisation of seaports: A comparative analysis. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Ports form an essential part of a country's infrastructure by facilitating trade and ultimately helping to reduce the cost of goods for consumers. They are characterised by solidity in physical infrastructure and legislative frameworks – or high levels of “asset specificity” – but also face the dynamics of constantly changing global market conditions requiring flexible responsiveness.

Through a New Institutional Economics lens, the ports of Port Hedland (Australia), Prince Rupert (Canada), and Tauranga (New Zealand) are analysed. This dissertation undertakes a cross-country comparative analysis, but also extends the empirical framework into an historical analysis using archival data for each case study from 1860 – 2012. How each port's unique institutional environment – the constraints, or “rules of the game” – affected their development and organisational structure is then investigated. This enables the research to avoid the problem where long periods of economic and political stability in core institutions can become the key explanatory variables.

The study demonstrates how the institutional pay-off structure determines what organisational forms come into existence at each port and where, why and how they direct their resources. Sometimes, even immense political will and capital investment will see a port flounder (Prince Rupert); or great resource booms will never be captured (Port Hedland); other times, the port may be the victim of special interest pressure from afar (Tauranga). All of these failures, and eventual successes, are traced to changes in each port's institutional environment over time.

This work is particularly relevant to those involved in port planning of all forms, whether dealing with higher-level governance issues or everyday allocation problems. The thesis concludes that for ports, institutions do matter: without understanding the institutional constraints a particular port faces at a particular point in time, even the best laid plans may go awry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Management and Governance
Supervisor(s): Tull, Malcolm and Affleck, Fred
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