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Global Supply Chains: Port Criticality and Maritime Dynamics


Maritime transport is core to the global economy, driving international trade. Ports, connectors between production hubs and consumer markets, shape this intricate system. This exploration delves into nuanced relationships between economic shifts, freight movements through ports, and repercussions of disruptions in the maritime transport network on global supply chains.

Interplay Between Maritime Transport and Supply Chains

The interaction of maritime transport and global supply-chain networks is complex. Global trade demands, supply dynamics, and modal splits dictate freight flow, reflecting changes in economic structures. The COVID-19 pandemic, a poignant example, exposed vulnerabilities in maritime transport, causing reverberations across supply chains due to factors like factory closures, port shutdowns, and labor shortages. Events like the 2021 Suez blockage underscore the far-reaching effects of disruptions on specific routes, echoing through multiple ports and influencing global supply chains.

Critical Role of Ports in the Economic Landscape

Assessing ports’ importance often revolves around metrics like trade volume, network characteristics, or contributions to local economies. However, these metrics overlook ports’ fundamental role as physical conduits in global supply chains. The Oxford Maritime Transport (OxMarTrans) model, a paradigm-shifting framework, offers a holistic assessment of port criticality on trade, transport, and supply-chain levels.

Innovative Modelling Framework for Holistic Assessment

OxMarTrans introduces a groundbreaking approach, estimating the fraction of maritime trade in bilateral trade flows and simulating maritime and hinterland routes. This enables a globally consistent evaluation of port criticality, bridging the gap between ports, maritime trade, transport networks, and the expansive supply chains they serve.

Key Insights

  • Around 50% of global trade value is maritime, soaring to 76% for the mining and quarrying sector.
  • Low-income countries and small island developing states (SIDS) exhibit a disproportionate reliance on maritime trade, with import fractions surpassing the global average.
  • Each USD coursing through a port contributes an average of 4.3 USD to the global economy.
  • Identification of critical ports with goods significantly impacting the global economy or representing substantial portions of domestic economies.
  • A 1000 USD spike in final demand corresponds to a median 84.6 USD upswing in maritime imports across ports, with some experiencing over 100 USD increases.

In Conclusion:

This nuanced analysis offers invaluable insights into the intricate tapestry woven by ports, maritime infrastructure networks, and the global economy. These findings are pivotal for sustainable infrastructure planning and bear relevance in environmental considerations, forecasting port demand, and assessing potential disruptions in supply chains due to maritime transport challenges.


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