Small- and Medium Sized Ports' Pathway Towards Becoming More Digitalised: A Case Study of the NON-STOP Project

Maren Ydstebø & Susanne Erichsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In this thesis, we present a qualitative case study of the NON-STOP project, with the aim of investigating how small- and medium sized ports (SMPs) can access the possible benefits of becoming more digitalised. The data constituting this study is collected through nine semi-structured interviews with port managers at the different participating ports as well as external actors with relevance for the SMPs and within the port industry in general. Additionally, participation in a webinar contributes to the primary data of this study. The data have been coded, interpreted, and presented through an analysis with a theoretical lens consisting of the theoretical framework of Organisational responses to identity threats (Ravasi & Schultz, 2006) as a foundation. This framework is furthermore complemented with the theory of sensemaking and the concept of dynamic capabilities, which altogether forms the theoretical basis of this thesis. The discussion pulls together threads from the port managers, stakeholders, and relevant literature from the field of strategy and organisational identity. Based on the findings and the discussion, this study reveals that a reorientation of the SMPs towards digitalisation, as a consequence of four identified challenges in the port industry, raises discussions and poses a threat to the previous role and identity of the SMPs. It is found that SMPs as of now are lacking a collective understanding of their identity, which prevents them from finding the needed capabilities and strategising in a way that helps them access the possible benefits of becoming more digitalised. This study further outlines the implications this has for the SMPs and provides them with four recommendations on how the they could sense and seize the capabilities that are essential to sustain a digital transformation, and thereby strategise to revise their identity substantially. Lastly, this study outlines possibilities for future research.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages129
SupervisorsCecilie Kampmann