A Cliometric Approach to Market Structure and Market Conduct in the Car Carrier Industry

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Objective: Today, products from the automotive industry represent an important share of international trade. Each year, millions of brand new and second-hand motor vehicles are shipped in completely built-up condition by a variety of specialized deep-sea vessels called car carriers with roro ramp access providing cargo space for more than 2,000 car equivalent units (CEU).

Data/Methodology: Following a cliometric approach, the paper examines this market of seaborne motor vehicle transportation over the last three decades from 1985 to 2016 backed by extensive historical data about seaborne motor vehicle trades and shipping operators active in this rather small, but very demanding segment of the maritime transport domain. More specific, market structure and theoretical market conduct of these shipping operators active in a rather oligopolistic transport market environment firstly explored by common market structure metrics and further analysed by structural, parametric statistical methods in sense of the New-Empirical-Industrial-Organization (NEIO) Theory. Accordingly, the theoretical market conduct is estimated by a simultaneous equation model, which includes a demand function for seaborne vehicle trades, and a market conduct function of the shipping operators including an implicit cost or productivity function of the car carrier fleet employed.

Results/Findings: For the given time frame, some interesting findings are as follows: (1) volatile demand for shipping of motor vehicles overseas can be explained well through shifts in trade flows to a high extent; (2) overall transport capacity, average operating speed and age of vessels in service are the main measures of the shipping operators available to adjust to this volatile demand on a short to medium run; (3) despite significant merger and acquisition activity, market exits and entries, this transport market got slightly less concentrated as today more shipping operators are active there than in the past; (4) estimated market conduct of the shipping operators seems to show a price setting slightly over their marginal costs with a strong trend towards a fully competitive market after 1996.

Implications for Research/Policy: The car carrier industry as the main transport market for seaborne motor vehicle trades perceived only limited attention in academia so far despite its contribution to overall global trade. Moreover, the approach developed in this paper can be useful to get more insights about market structure and theoretical market conduct in similar rather concentrated transport markets.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventSiga2 2018 Conference: The Port and Maritime Sector: Key Developments and Challenges - University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium
Duration: 2 May 20184 May 2018


ConferenceSiga2 2018 Conference
LocationUniversity of Antwerp
Internet address


  • Seaborne vehicle trade
  • Car carrier industry
  • Market structure
  • Market conduct

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