Patterns of Internationalization: Assessing Network Structures within Container Shipping Industry

Günter Prockl, Herbert Kotzab, Aseem Kinra

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Purpose - Container shipping, due to its boundary crossing nature, is generally seen as an international business. A first look into the physical networks of the industry has shown that container-shipping companies operate however rather differently, with different motives for internationalization, and infact show different patterns to their international development. However, there are other important transactional and market-oriented considerations, and overall dynamics that need to be examined before concluding on the internationalization levels of container shipping companies, and the industry. The purpose of this paper is to further investigate the patterns of internationalisation by the examination of the more demand-oriented considerations.

Design/methodology/approach - In order to answer the research question, the paper focusses on the examination of the front-end activities and structures like sales office networks and the overall extent of market presence. For this the fundamental sales networks of the companies were considered as a key indicator, and the port networks of the 20 largest container-shipping companies in the world (by TEU capacity) were analyzed.

Findings - The resulting data set allows an examination on each company’s overall network at various geographic levels, and a direct comparison of the networks of the companies. It shows that not all shipping companies are highly international. It also shows that market share and total capacity are not necessarily a good indicator for the worldwide presence of a company.

Research limitations/implications (if applicable) - The paper adds yet another piece to the interesting puzzle on internationalization patterns of container shipping companies. However, for a complete picture on the internationalization process further work will be required that is based e.g. on the development pattern of single companies and that may also take more the dynamic aspects and comparisons into account.

Practical implications - Preceeding work provides insights that are directed towards the port networks and thus toward the more back office oriented resource architecture and the more geographical aspect of physical coverage. By reorganising the focus on the sales network of the single container shipping companies, this paper presents findings that are also applicable to the front end, towards the customer, The comparison of both views is
promising interesting insights such as ownership structures and entry modes along with the specific location commitment as a basis for strategic considerations.

Originality/value – In the academic literature there is not much to find on the internationalization process and the dominating internationalisation patterns related to container shipping. The paper makes an important contribution in this regard by considering the different aspects of the international shipping networks and by bringing these closer to extant frameworks on internationalization.
TitelProceedings of the 25th NOFOMA Conference
RedaktørerPer Olaf Arnäs, Niklas Arvidsson, Rickard Bergqvist, Mats Johansson, Pehr-Ola Pahlén
Antal sider16
ForlagGöteborg Universitet
ISBN (Trykt)9789198097337
StatusUdgivet - 2013
BegivenhedThe 25th NOFOMA Conference 2013: Annual Nordic Logistics Research Network Conference - Göteborg, Sverige
Varighed: 3 jun. 20135 jun. 2013
Konferencens nummer: 25


KonferenceThe 25th NOFOMA Conference 2013
SponsorThe Nordic Logistics Research Network


  • Internationalization
  • Container shipping
  • Sales offices
  • Agents