A comparative analysis of port selection in Southern Africa
Van Rensburg, J.E.
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In 2015, the estimated volume of world seaborne trade accounted for over 80 per cent of total world merchandise trade. In addition, containerised cargo has increased more than tenfold since 1985 (UNCTAD, 2016:6-7). Even though global trade has contracted over the past couple of years (an average of 3 per cent per year from 2012 to 2016), merchandise trade still constitutes more than half of the total global output. Combining the aforementioned statistics, seaports have a pivotal role to play in roughly 40 per cent of the world's economy in terms of volume. Selecting the most appropriate seaport within a set of criteria is of utmost importance to the various role players within global value chains. The importance of port selection is also significant in Southern Africa, a region that contains a number of landlocked countries, not to mention various geographically-dispersed economic hubs. Therefore, a substantial proportion of the hinterland of Southern Africa is contested by only a small number of seaports. What drives the selection of a port within the Southern African context? Historically, port selection has been extensively studied throughout the developed world, as well as in Southeast Asia. However, since very little academic research on port selection has been done within the African context, a gap in the literature exists. This study aims to bridge that gap. Traditionally, the topic of port selection has been studied from the perspective of different groups of role players through various research methods. From the perspective of shippers and freight forwarders, the majority of studies made use of stakeholder surveys. From the perspective of carriers and shipping lines, the preferred research method was equally divided between stakeholder surveys, the AHP (analytic hierarchy process) and port selection modelling. The findings showed that numerous traditional determinants exist in explaining port selection from a global perspective, which include cost, location, connectivity, port services and efficiency. This study investigated these determinants and estimated three econometric models for port selection in the Southern African context by means of panel data. The focus of the study was on the Ports of: Beira in Mozambique, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Durban in South Africa and Walvis Bay in Namibia since, at the time of the study, these four selected ports had the largest container terminals in the region and contested the Southern African hinterland through various trade corridors. Descriptively, the Port of Durban had a distinct competitive advantage over its regional rivals in terms of traditional macro-determinants, such as connectivity and efficiency. In terms of traditional micro-determinants, the Ports of Durban and Walvis Bay were comparable and had a competitive advantage over the Ports of Beira and Dar es Salaam, which in turn were comparable. Using data obtained from the national port authorities of the selected Southern African countries, as well as data from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, three groups of models were then estimated for the selected Southern African ports. Severe data limitations necessitated the estimation of panel models by means of the OLS (ordinary least squares) method, as well as a fixed effects model and a random effects model. A number of different iterations were run to test various hypotheses that were drawn from existing literature. Ultimately, the models were estimated on seven traditional determinants of port selection in the period between 2005 and 2015. The results indicated that when comparatively analysing port selection in Southern Africa, role players prefer ports that are better connected, in closer geographical proximity to their trading partners, and have better port infrastructure compared to their regional competitors.