Levels of Internationalization in the Container Shipping Industry: An Assessment of the Port Networks of the Large Container Shipping Companies

Hitesh Kumar Gadhia, Herbert Kotzab, Günter Prockl

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper examines the internationalization level of the world’s largest container shipping companies by examining their port networks. The results of our analysis show that only three of the nineteen companies could be considered as being truly ‘International’ and service the ‘lion’s share’ of the major and minor ports distributed across the globe. The port networks of the other companies in our survey, whilst having individualized features, shared common characteristics. Guided by the ‘Uppsala Model of Incremental Internationalization’ (Johanson and Vahlne, 1977), we were able to identify four internationalization levels of a container shipping company that are indicated by their port network.

We argue that the port network plays an additional role as it contributes to the internationalization level of the container shipping companies. This is important because the internationalization level affects the container shipping company’s ability to expand its customer base both at a local and international level. Local customers would have access to a larger international destination network and international customers would be able access a larger local distribution network without transhipping between different companies.

Amongst other issues, we were able to determine that, for the analyzed container shipping companies, ‘Internationalization’ of a port network means including or excluding ports in specific regions or sub-regions in their own network, and that a company’s home base or history plays a significant role in this development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1431-1442
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Container Shipping
  • Internationalization
  • Port Networks

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