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Larger european seaports stand to benefit from independent management

Thursday, 03 September 2015 | 00:00
Reform efforts in European seaports that have outgrown their local and national importance should focus on making port authorities independent, either through corporatisation or privatisation. This is one of the principal conclusions of the PhD research that Patrick Verhoeven recently completed at the Department of Transport and Regional Economics of the University of Antwerp. The conclusion is partly based on a comprehensive assessment of the reform of Rotterdam Port Authority, which became a limited liability company in 2004.

“Independent management will optimise the possibilities for port authorities to contribute to the competitiveness of their ports”, said Patrick Verhoeven, “It will increase their ability to invest, by having more autonomy over their own revenue sources, attracting new share capital and having better access to private funding. It will also enable far-reaching forms of cooperation with other port authorities, in order to widen their influence over logistics chains.” Corporatisation, whereby governments remain shareholders, is the more suitable reform option for the management of multi-purpose gateway ports that operate in a landlord configuration. “Successful corporatisation however implies more than just changing legal status”, added Patrick Verhoeven, “A genuine corporate culture must be introduced, whereby supervisory board and management act in the interest of the company. Post-reform governance, including regulatory oversight, should not be neglected.”

The drive for further port management reform in Europe should be a bottom-up process, but there is also a role for the European Union. “Port authorities and governments should share the objective that reform is to improve competitiveness of ports”, said Patrick Verhoeven, “This will not just serve the ports concerned, but the European port system as a whole. This is why the European Union should be an objective ally that helps keeping port management reform processes on track. The continued stalling of a clear regulatory framework regarding the application of competition and internal market rules is therefore in no-one’s interest.”

In addition to exploring the future scope for port management reform in Europe, the study of Patrick Verhoeven revisits the role of port authorities, identifies trends in port management and governance and assesses the economic impact of port management reform. This is done through a review of literature, empirical evidence drawn from European seaports and an assessment of EU policy initiatives. The main academic contribution of his work, which was supervised by Prof Dr Eddy Van de Voorde, consists of a comprehensive analytical framework to measure the economic impact of port management reform and to identify influential process factors.
Source: University of Antwerp
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