Competitiveness of South Asia's Container Ports: A Comprehensive Assessment of Performance, Drivers, and Costs (Paperback)
South Asia's trade almost doubled in the past decade, but the share of trade in GDP is still smaller (47 percent) than in East Asia (55 percent), and South Asia's economic competitiveness continues to lag that of other regions. Part of the problem is the region's container ports. As a result of inefficiencies, the average cost of exporting or importing a container in the region is more than twice what it is in East Asia. Better port logistics could help increase trade, diversify exports, attract more foreign direct investment, and spur economic growth. As container traffic continues to grow and physical expansion is constrained by the limited supply of available land at most ports, the best way to improve port performance is by increasing productivity. To identify strategies for doing so, this report examines the performance of the 14 largest container ports in the region based on two sets of criteria: operational performance and economic performance. To measure operational performance, the report benchmarks total time at port, waiting time at port, and idle time as a share of total time at berth. To measure economic performance, it benchmarks productivity and efficiency using two useful techniques: Malmquist total factor productivity decomposition and data envelopment analysis. The report identifies key drivers of port performance and examines how differences in performance across ports are related to those drivers. This analysis is based on an original dataset on private sector participation, governance, and competition in South Asia's container port sector. To highlight the potential gains from improving performance of container ports, the report uses econometric techniques to isolate the impact of efficiency improvements on maritime transport costs and trade. The results suggest that the best strategy for improving port performance in the region is a three-pronged approach that (a) encourages private sector participation through a well-developed enabling environment, including further adoption of the "landlord" port model; (b) strengthens the governance of port authorities' boards; and (c) promotes competition between and within ports, in part through transparent and competitive concession bidding.