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Between path dependency and contingency: New challenges for the geography of port system evolution
  Seaports play a critical role as gateways and facilitators of economic interchange and logistics processes and thus have become crucial nodes in globalised production networks andmobility systems. Both the physical port infrastructure and its operational superstructure have undergone intensive evolution processes in an effort to adapt to changing economic environments, technological advances,maritime industry expectations and institutional reforms. The results, in terms of infrastructure, operator models and the role of an individual port within the port
system, vary by region, institutional and economic context. While ports have undoubtedly developed in scale to respond to the changing volumes and structures in geographies of trade (Wilmsmeier, 2015), the development of hinterland access infrastructure, regulatory systems and institutional structures have in many instances lagged behind. The resulting bottlenecks reflect deficits in the interplay between the economic system and the factors defining port development (e.g. transport demand, the structure of trade, transport services, institutional capacities, etc. cf. Cullinane and Wilmsmeier, 2011). There is a wide range of case study approaches and analyses of individual ports, but analyses from a port system perspective are less common, and those that exist are seldom critical of the dominant discourse assuming the efficiency of market competition (cf. Debrie et al., 2013).
This special section aims to capture the spectrum of approaches in current geography research on port system evolution. Thus, the papers reach from the traditional spatial approach (Rodrigue and Ashar, this volume) to network analysis (Mohamed-Chérif and Ducruet, this volume) to institutional discussions (Vonck and Notteboom, this volume; Wilmsmeier and Monios, this volume). The selection of papers allows an opening of discussion and reflection on current research, necessary critical analysis of the influences on port systemevolution and,most importantly, future directions. The remainder of this editorial aims to reflect on these challenges and identify the potential for future research.

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  • Date:

    13 February 2016

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  • Library of Congress:

    HE Transportation and Communications

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    387 Water, air & space transportation


Monios, J., & Wilmsmeier, G. (2016). Between path dependency and contingency: New challenges for the geography of port system evolution. Journal of Transport Geography, 51, 247-251.



Geography; seaports; evolution;

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