Intra-European Maritime Transport and Ports: Multipurpose or Specialized?
This article discusses the relation between maritime ports and their hinterland and the notions used to describe them. Two major contributions in this field provide opposite views on ports functions at different time of their industrialisation. One is based on the notion of a technical network strongly dependant on the global maritime industry and succeeds to qualify the recent growth of containerised flows. The other emphasises the role of ports and port communities as a necessary link between maritime activities and the continental area they serve, using the metaphor of a triptych.
If one analyses ports specifically through intra-European trade, the network models seems less relevant as transport organisations relies more on specific circuits and ships and on ports communities. Rather than a unique network built upon the wide use of a standard transport unit, the intra-European maritime transport appears to spread mainly through independent chains dedicated to various industrial products (paper wheels, new cars, steel products). Coordination with the port professionals then becomes a key issue as complementary freight are needed to sustain the services and the port activities as well.