Research is defined as ‘the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information or data in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about which we are concerned or interested.’ (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p.2). According to this definition a researcher must have clear the topic that will be subject of research and the methodology that will be applied to analyze such a topic. Previously, the purpose of this research was described. Such purpose was also stated and framed through two research questions. This section, seeks to describe the methodology that has been applied in the study in order to answer the research questions.
Research according to Patton (2002), especially fundamental or basic research aims to generate or test theory and contributes to knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Such knowledge could be focused on the what, where and when of a phenomenon for which usually quantitative research methods are applied (Svenning, 1999). It could be also focused on the why and how of a specific matter or phenomenon for which qualitative research methods are applied (Svenning, 1999). This research seeks to create complementary knowledge about the characterization of the relationships between two specific business entities (namely Container Terminals and Dry Ports), and how those relationships impact a specific competitive behaviour. Therefore, it was considered appropriate to apply qualitative research methods in this study. Qualitative research is designed to reveal a target population’s range of behaviour and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson, 2008). Qualitative research is powerful as a source of grounded theory because it is ‘theory inductively generated from field work, that is, theory that emerges from the researcher’s observations and interviews out in the real world rather than in the laboratory or the academy.’ (Patton, 2002, p.11). This is why usually qualitative research uses in-depth studies of small groups of people to guide and support the construction of hypotheses (Shank, 2002). Consequently, the results of qualitative research are descriptive rather than predictive, as the results obtained in this study.
In this context, the observations and analysis made in this research are based on a systematic empirical approach through which experience of container terminals and dry port managers are interpreted in the natural settings of the industries they are part of. This systematic empirical approach takes previous theory on the topic as reference and correlates it with facts and insights expressed by the interviewees. The interviewees’ perceptions and opinions have been organized and classified based on an academic model for relationships assessment. In this model container terminals are analysed as customers of dry ports, and dry ports were given the role of suppliers of logistics services in the business of transportation of containerized cargo. Such model for the assessment of business relationships was also used to guide the data collection. The model also framed the impact relationship characteristics could have on the competition environment of container terminals regarding containerized cargo. Taking into account that some issues related to competition and business relationships were considered relevant for the study, it is important to note that in the analysis section some logical assumptions and educated guesses were made in order to contextualize the findings obtained. For these cases, examples and previous research related to the subject matter were used to validate such assumptions.
The collection of data in this research followed a triangulation approach. Triangulation in research is defined as the combination of two or more data sources (Denzin, 1970) within the same study (Patton, 2002). The purposes of using different data sources are to give a multidimensional perspective of the phenomenon (Foster, 1997) and also to provide rich, unbiased data that can be interpreted with a sufficient degree of reliability (Säfsten, 2012). In this research the three kinds of qualitative data such as interviews, observations and documents as classified by Patton (2002) were used. Additionally, two descriptive surveys were carried out. The literature review was used to map out and frame the topic the research questions attempted to embrace. Therefore, the literature review focus on inland integration of port services, regionalization of ports, dry port concept, competition theory, inter-port competition, supplier/customer relationships’ assessment, container terminals operations, drivers and influencers of inter-port competition.
As it was mentioned, a model for the assessment of business relationships guided the collection of data. Such model was the Relationship Assessment Process (RAP) model made in 1996 by researchers of the Centre for Research in Strategic Purchasing and Supply of the School of Management at the University of Bath. The RAP model develops an understanding of the relationship based upon a single, combined or integrated experience and perspective that is shared uniquely by two parties in the dyad (Lamming, Cousins & Notman, 1996). This model was reviewed in 2007 and jointly with the Business School of Bournemouth University and the University of Southampton in UK a model for Supply Relationship Evaluation (SRE) was proposed. The SRE model intends to fill the application gaps of the RAP model and introduced a revised set of relationship characteristics (Johnsen et al., 2007). This set of relationships characteristics was used to frame the relationship type that could exist between container terminals and dry ports as the latter being the supplier of logistics services to containerized cargo of the former. This assessment was done from a supply chain perspective and embracing the perception of both container terminal managers and dry port managers.
In this context and keeping in mind the purpose of the study, the impact of the relationships between container terminals and dry ports on inter-port competition was identified and typified by data collected through interviews to practitioners and scholars of the transportation industry in Sweden and abroad. The interviews were in their majority semi-structure and most of them were carried out in person by the researcher. For each interview an interview guide was elaborated in order to adjust the questions to the interviewee’s profile (see interview guide in appendix 1). In some cases, questions were sent prior to the interview allowing a sort of contextualization of the interviewees. However, most of the interviewees preferred to engage the questions in the interview appointment. A total of twelve interviews were scheduled. Two were cancelled and ten were finally conducted. Two out of the ten interviews were conducted through telephone communication and answers to the interview questionnaire by e-mail. The interviews lasted between 30 minutes and one hour and a half. All the interviews performed in person were recorded with the authorization of the interviewee. The interviewee’s selection was made based on their expertise in the topic, the experience in the transportation industry and the most convenient geographical location for the researcher. The interviewees, their position and general information about the interview are presented in table 5.1.
In addition to the previous interviews, complementary information was collected through two surveys that were carried out simultaneously to the interviews. The first survey was performed over a population of 100 container terminal managers (which will be referred as Survey 1) and the second survey was performed over a population of 70 dry port managers (which will be referred as Survey 2). The complete list of container terminals surveyed is presented in appendix 2, the complete list of dry ports surveyed is presented in appendix 3.
The selection of the companies and organizations surveyed was done based on the official directories of the organizations and associations listed on table 5.2.
The surveys consisted of a questionnaire with 20 close-ended questions related to business relationships characteristics and competition aspects in both container terminals and the dry port industries (see example of questionnaire in appendix 4). In section 7 of the study is described in detail the type of questions formulated, their intended purpose and the rating scale applied. The surveys were supported by an online application powered by Google (Google Docs), which allowed the population reached to answer the questions in a friendly manner with an average lasting time of five minutes. The surveys started on March 16 of 2012 and finalized on April 20 of 2012. During this time, one initial communication and three reminders were conducted. The third and last reminder was carried out by individual e-mails and telephone calls directed to companies from the initial list that were consider important for the study. The response rate achieved for the surveys were of 31% for Survey 1 and 35.7% for Survey 2. It is important to note that the online application used in the survey powered by Google, facilitated the approach of companies surveyed through e-mail and the tracing and tracking of responses. Such application also facilitated actions and processes to increase the response rate and the organization and interpretation of the data.
Delimitations, limitations and scope
The research focuses on the relationships that take place between container terminals and dry ports regarding containerized cargo and the impact of such relationships on inter-port competition. Container terminals and dry ports in practice interact alternatively as both suppliers and customers depending of the logistics flow of the cargo and the range of services provided by dry ports. In this research, container terminals are studied as customers of dry ports, and dry ports are given the role of logistics service providers in the business of transportation of containerized cargo.
As it is reviewed in the following sections, inter-port competition could take place between maritime ports and also between terminals handling different type of cargo. The phenomenon could also be analysed from a geographical perspective in which location is the focus, or it could be analysed in terms of destination and origin of the cargo handled at the terminal. In this research, inter-port competition is exclusively studied taking into consideration only containerized cargo. Additionally, it is important to mention that in practice maritime ports and container terminals sometimes engage competition for containerized cargo intentionally with full awareness of the phenomenon’s mechanics, and sometimes they do not. Occasionally, maritime ports and container terminals are not fully aware of their involvement in inter-port competition. Some terminal managers, consultants and seaport’s practitioners particularly in emerging economies interpret the ups and downs in the container throughput as a vector of the level of captivity of their markets and their hinterland’s manufactured output. As a result it is possible to find in the industry opinions referring to ports and container terminals that are not involved in any kind of competition. On the other hand as it is discussed in the literature review of this study, scholars in the maritime industry and port economists agree on that due to the globalization mechanism every single commercial port is subject of competition. This is why, for the purpose of this study it is assumed that container terminals located in the same geographical service range are subjects of inter-port competition whether their engagement in the phenomenon is intentional, unconscious or forced by the modern dynamics of the shipping industry.
The research questions are answered and discussed from the perspective of competition theory and supply chain management. The scope of the research is only over inter-port competition between container terminals at sea ports and relationships between them and dry ports. Dry ports could be used to storage cargo different to containers and they could be linked to container terminals by all modes of transport. However, this research only considers those dry ports dedicated exclusively or in its majority to handle and storage containers, and those that are connected to container terminals by rail and road transport.
The quality of the research was continuously assessed based on an assessment criteria for qualitative research (see appendix 5) proposed by Patton (2002). In the context of such criteria, initially the themes in the literature review, the research strategy, the interview guide and the survey questions were presented and approved by the supervisor assigned. The literature review was carried out over recent textbooks and peer-review scientific articles obtained from book collections and academic databases available at Jönköping University library. Secondly, a perspective for the study was chosen. Such perspective was a Supply Chain perspective which was integrated to the data collection and the analysis of the data. Thirdly, the units of analysis were chosen. These units were structured-focused, specifically on container terminals and dry ports. Then, with regard to the surveys random purposeful samples of container terminals and dry ports were selected to be surveyed from the list of organizations presented in table 5.2. With regard to the interviews, an emergent sampling approach was used based on the geographical closeness faced by the researcher to Gothenburg’s hinterland and a fieldtrip conducted in Thailand from 2012-02-14 to 2012-03-05.
The sample size for the surveys were chosen considering the tools available to process the data and the time available to collect it, aiming for a minimum response rate of 30% to add credibility, reduce bias and allow generalizations and representativeness over the sample.
List of Acronyms
Table of Figures
Table of Tables
2 Disposition of the Thesis
3 Problem definition
3.1 Problem statement
5.2 Data collection
5.3 Delimitations, limitations and scope
5.4 Quality Assessment
5.5 Reliability and Validity
6 Theoretical framework
6.1 Forces shaping economic environments and industries
6.2 Inland integration of port services and regionalization of ports
6.3 Dry port concept
6.5 Inter-port competition
6.6 A model for relationship assessment
7 Empirical Findings
7.1 The Interviews
7.2 The Surveys
8 Analysis .
8.1 Assessment of the relationships between Container Terminals and Dry ports
8.2 Impact of relationships between container terminals and dry ports on inter-port competition
10 Further research
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Relationships between Maritime Container Terminals and Dry Ports and their impact on Inter-port competition