Avocados Crossing Borders: The Problem of Runaway Objects and the Solution of a Shipping Information Pipeline for Improving International Trade

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This paper investigates the case of shipments of containers with avocados from farmers in Africa to grocery store shelves in the European Union. We find 3 predominant challenges to containerized shipping that effectively become trade barriers: international trade cost, lead time uncertainty, and security risks. We use activity theory to describe, understand, and analyze the shipping activity in the international trade ecosystem with focus on physical objects and their related information. We find that the shipment becomes problematic and can be characterized as a runaway object in the heterogeneous and multiple organizational setting of international trade. Our analysis of shipping reveals (1) inefficient collaboration across loosely coupled activity systems and (2) fragmented information infrastructures. We propose the solution of Shipping Information Pipeline, a shared information infrastructure, thus facilitating collaboration in containerized shipping and contributing to lowering trade barriers. Shipping Information Pipeline can significantly improve containerized shipping resulting in estimated potential benefits of up to 4.7% growth in global GDP.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)408-438
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Published online: 14. august 2017


  • Activity theory
  • Containerized shipping
  • Information infrastructures
  • Knotworking
  • Runaway object
  • Mycorrhizae

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