Seaports as Clusters of Economic Activities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEncyclopedia chapterResearch


Companies related directly or indirectly to ships and international commodity chains and located in the port area can jointly be considered as a port cluster. The colocation of such interrelated companies in ports creates synergies, such as the shared use of infrastructure and services and the availability of specialized knowledge and skills. The port cluster concept has proven to be a useful “lens” for analyzing ports. With the cluster “lens” scholars address research issues that are complementary to the established lens of treating a port as a transport node. A port cluster consists of four components, transport-related activities, logistics and value-added activities, manufacturing activities, and leisure and tourism-related activities. A port cluster is in various ways different from the more widely studied “tech clusters.” This has important implications for the analysis of port clusters. First, port clusters are vulnerable to technological change. Second, the core challenge for port clusters lies in the absorptive capacity. R&D activities in port clusters are limited; the dominant innovation challenge is the (early) application of new knowledge (e.g., regarding digitalization, recycling technologies, bio-based chemicals, and smart grids). Third, contrary to most “tech clusters,” in which governance is rather loose, chaotic, and decentralized, structured governance mechanisms may be critical to enhancing the competitiveness of port clusters. A state-owned commercially run “port cluster developer” often plays a central role.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Transportation : Volume 3. Freight Transport and Logistics
EditorsRoger Vickerman, Kevin P.B. Cullinane
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9780081026717
ISBN (Electronic)9780081026724
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Business ecosystems
  • Clusters
  • Governance
  • Overview
  • Ports in proximity
  • Seaports
  • Synergies

Cite this