Port performance measurement is continuously gaining ground in contemporary port management. Intense competition and the progressive metamorphosis of port authorities’ idiosyncrasies towards more commercialised and industrialised entities have been vital: ports, in their vast majority, are actively engaged in the complex supply chains aiming, among others, to increase market shares.
In this setting, the importance of port performance measurement emerged as a necessary condition for ports in order to benchmark their business vis-a-vis their competitors and the port industry in general. Some ports monitor their performance based on pure operational features while others encompass wider aspects emerging from the port’s environment, such as administrative and financial performance. This trend has also been recorded by the relevant academic research, which for long has mainly focused on the examination of operational parameters (the efficiency component) of performance.
One missing link towards a concrete and comprehensive port performance measurement is the inclusion of port users’ perceptions in port performance evaluation, i.e. how a port’s user perceive and evaluate its performance elements, that is to say, how they rate a port based on their experience.
Related research has in recent years acknowledged this and progressively directed its interest in measuring the effectiveness component (see Pallis and Vitsounis, 2009). Decision makers, and ports have already started exploring the best way to achieve a meaningful measurement of users’ perceptions as regards port performance.
Contributing to this debate, the port study of PortEconomics members of Thanos Pallis and George Vaggelas, co-authored with Evie Kladaki (University of the Aegean) suggests a framework that enables the measurement of port users’ perceptions as regards the performance of different types of port markets and port services. In doing so, the paper develops a typology of elements that shape port users’ perceptions in the case of different port markets capturing the peculiarities of each market. Based on this typology it recommends a tool to assess users’ perspectives, and subsequently evaluate any given port. As the evaluation of a port is a sensitive issue, the rating mechanism provides to port authorities, the flexibility to prioritise the port markets they would like to measure, thus providing the ability to ports to develop a customised tool.
The developed evaluation mechanism has been tested on a pilot field research on European seaports. At a first stage, port authorities select the markets and the elements that – according to their perspective – shape a port user’s perceptions, based on particular characteristics and needs. At the second stage, port users assess the importance of each variable – thus, capturing the determinants of port users’ perceptions on port performance – and rate each of their own priorities, based on their experience from the ports they use.
The port study aims to reveal outcomes of the respective field research, unveiling the key parameters that port users take into consideration when evaluating a port. Moreover, the importance and evaluation rating of port performance parameters allows a GAP analysis of the collected data. The study presents the outcomes of a pilot application of the suggested tool in European ports and will conclude with a suggestion of relevant policies towards the development of a comprehensive port performance measurement tool and monitoring framework.
Thanos’, George’s and Evie’s port study titled “Measuring the missing link in port performance evaluation: Port users’ perspectives” was presented in the IAME 2017 Conference held 27-30 June in Kyoto, Japan. The extended abstract and presentation of the study is available and can be freely downloaded @PortEconomics.