27 October 17

Private entry in cruise terminal operations in the Mediterranean Sea

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Picture1-768x381Aiming to effectively respond to calls for upgrading cruise terminals, while safeguarding public spending, port authorities started to seek the active involvement of third parties to finance, construct, operate, and/or commercially develop cruise facilities. Specialized cruise terminals replace multi-purpose or temporary docking facilities. New cruise terminals are built and existing ones are upsized and upgraded, imposing additional investments on the hosting ports.

In their award winning paper (Winner of “Best Conference Paper”, International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME) Conference, Kyoto, Japan, June 2017), PortEconomics members Thanos Pallis, Francesco Parola, Giovanni Satta & Theo Notteboom examine private entry strategies and internationalization patterns in the cruise terminal industry, focusing on the second biggest cruise region in the world, the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas.

A database detailing the ownership structures observed in cruise terminals in 18 different countries forms the backbone of the empirical analysis. This dataset details the entry strategies and implementation options of cruise terminal operators, their corporate features and strategies, and the emerging partnership dynamics. Methodologically, our analysis is based on earlier constructs used to conceptualize entry forms and strategic management in container terminals and port governance systems.

The findings suggest that cruise terminals are subject to an initial phase of privatization and internationalization. The outcomes point to the emergence of International Cruise Terminal Operators (ICTOs) and the active presence of cruise lines and other types of entities (including port and shipping companies, shipping agents, chambers of commerce, etc.).

The scholars also place their empirical findings next to recent contributions in the more mature (in terms of the timescale of entry) container port industry. Such a detailed comparison allows one to assess whether entry in the various port markets differs only as regards the timescales of privatization – thus a generalisation is possible – or forms of entry and internationalization processes in each market are associated with different features. While the cruise terminal development path shows some similarities with what happened in container ports a few decades ago, an array of differences also emerg.

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