The competitiveness of a seaport highly depends on its efficiency, especially in terms of how its logistics operations are integrated with those of other logistics chain partners. Despite the well-articulated importance of ports and terminals in integrated logistics, research on the success factors of port logistics integration remains scattered. This study aims to identify key factors in port logistics integration and how logistics integration can be improved. To identify the key factors in port logistics integration, a review of the literature is conducted to cover studies in Scopus indexed journals on logistics, supply chain and port management for the period 2000-2016.
Based on the results of the literature review, a conceptual framework for port logistics integration is developed and applied to a study of logistics integration in the Iranian port sector. The Iranian port sector is chosen due to its critical role in the Iranian economy and seaborne trade, and lack of research on the port sector in this country despite its strategic location in the Middle East region. The study makes use of data collected from a survey and interviews of senior staff and managers from ports, terminal operating companies, freight forwarders, transport providers, port authority, shipping lines, customs and shippers in Iran.
Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) are applied to the data set of 212 observations to identify and analyse the key factors in port logistics integration and their relationships. The results of EFA and CFA indicate that the logistics practice, information integration, value-added services, logistics practices, organisational activities, resource sharing and institutional support are influential to logistics integration. In addition, it has also been found that logistics integration in the Iranian port sector is subject to a number of issues and challenges relating to infrastructure, operational/ technical, Managerial/ organisational, governance and policy, and sanctions.
Using Nvivo Software and data collected from 105 interviews, the results of the qualitative analysis revealed that the lack of integration and coordination between logistics chain partners, management/ organisational issues and infrastructural issues are among the most important challenges in port logistics integration. Moreover, infrastructural development, the participation of logistics partners in the port’s decision-making process, information and technology development, and integration of procedures and systems are highly recommended as measures to overcome the above challenges.
Based on the findings of the quantitative and qualitative analysis, several implications, and recommendations for port management and policymakers are discussed. For example, ports need to foster close, collaborative relationships with logistics chain partners in information exchange, communication, logistics operations management, port development, and joint decision-making process. Furthermore, ports need to make effective use of existing information and communication technologies; for example, EDI, online transactions and real-time cargo tracking. Given the deficiencies in infrastructure and investment, institutional support is needed, such as loans/microcredit and lease facilities. To a broader extent, port development needs to be aligned with that of rail and road transport as part of the transport and logistics system. The sector can also benefit from reform measures to make ports more competitive and to attract investment from private and international companies.