Research Output

Strategic management in the global container shipping industry.

  Container shipping is of immense importance to global industry, and one of the
critical enablers of globalisation. Analysis of the global container shipping
industry suggests the potential for significant economies of scope and scale, and
hence low costs and high efficiency, both recognised benefits of a global
strategy. However, the global activities of container shipping lines are subject to
a series of countervailing pressures, in particular, state regulation, shipper
power, and the constant threat of competition. In an industry where
differentiation has been absent, or at best difficult to achieve, there exists a
growing belief amongst industry leaders that competitive advantage can be
secured through providing a higher level intermodal service with a global
network. This project identifies these and other important strategic management
issuesr elating to containers hipping. it comparess trategiesa doptedb y industry
leaders Sea-Land Service Inc. and Evergreen Line, two firms appearing to
exhibit different modes of operation. Key differences in the strategies adopted
by these lines' are identified. Through application of an established theoretical
framework to help finther analyset he strategieso f thesec ompetitors,a nd aided
by in-depth interviews with executives from each firm, it has been possible to
identify specific organisational pressures associated with the conflicting needs
for global operationali ntegration of activities and for local responsivenessT. he
study has found that, in the global container shipping industry, competitors must
implement strategies that facilitate a capability for both global integration and
for local responsivenessT. his means that firms participating in the global
container shipping industry must be multifocal; they must seek to develop the
capability to manage both sets of demands simultaneously. Nevertheless, it is
evident that whilst eachf irm is subjectt o broadly similar pressuresin respecto f
the needs for integration and responsiveness, they adopt rather different
strategies in attempting to meet these needs. With Sea-Land there is clearly an
intermodal orientation, with more emphasis placed on intermodal capabilities
and landside activities than on maritime aspects. Conversely, Evergreen Line
was found to have a predominantly maritime orientation, placing greater
emphasis on ships and containers and rather less emphasis on landside activities. These and other differences between carrier strategies relate to the series of
strategic choices global liner shipping companies must make regarding the
specific assets and operations necessary to provide a global container service.
Using the grounded theory approach, a theoretical framework specific to the
global container shipping industry has been developed that outlines these
choices, illustrating the various options open to industry competitors. Entitled
Strategic Choice in Container Shipping, the framework can be used as a
teaching instrument to help explain industry complexity, and as an analytical
tool to aid management decision-making and strategic planning.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 November 1999

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HE Transportation and Communications

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    387 Water, air & space transportation


Baird, A. Strategic management in the global container shipping industry. (Thesis)


maritime economics; global container shipping industry; Sea-land; intermodal orientation; Everfreen Line; maritime orientation;

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