Internationalisation Within Liner Shipping: An Examination of the Sales Network Structures of Shipping Lines

Günter Prockl, Aseem Kinra, Herbert Kotzab

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Container shipping is generally considered a global business. This truth may not hold from a single-company perspective. The companies’ physical operation networks show that container carriers operate differently and follow different paths in their internationalisation development. Additionally, the degree of internationalisation, measured on the basis of sea-oriented operations, differs from that measured according to land-oriented front-end marketing and sales activities. The purpose of this study is to further examine the internationalisation patterns of shipping lines. An examination of the front-end activities and the structures of leading container-shipping companies is conducted. The sales office networks of the sector’s 20 largest companies worldwide (by twenty-foot equivalent unit capacity) are analysed as key indicators. The numbers of sales offices are measured by analysing the websites of the sample (20 companies), as well as annual reports and other publicly available data sources. The findings show that not all shipping companies are international, by virtue of the industry. While it is difficult to observe differences in the overall patterns of the sales networks at a macro level, some companies differ in their activities. The data set also shows that market share and total capacity are not necessarily good indicators of a carrier’s worldwide presence. This research is based on secondary data. Other important transactional and market-oriented considerations should be examined before drawing conclusions about the internationalisation of container-shipping companies and of the industry. This paper contributes to the relevant existing research, particularly by adding its view on the demand-oriented criteria as suggested by Dunning and Lundan (2008).
Original languageEnglish
JournalMaritime Business Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)279-298
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Internationalization
  • Container shipping
  • Shipping
  • Sales networks

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