52nd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regions in Motion - Breaking the Path", 21-25 August 2012, Bratislava, Slovakia
There is an ongoing debate on the concentration of container throughput in the European container port system. A particular feature is the dominant position of ports located in the Hamburg-Le Havre range. Some proponents of southern European ports argue that a shift in port traffic from the north to the south would be beneficial for the environment and the economy. Furthermore, some argue that concentration of ports might increase regional inequalities in Europe. For instance, the European White Paper on Transport argues that more entry points into European markets are needed on the coasts. In our paper we apply and compare several hinterland accessibility indices to explain the relative size of port regions. Besides standard measures that combine the size of hinterland regions with a distance decay function, we check whether the incorporation of the density of hinterland activities leads to better performing measures. As indicated in the literature, port size is strongly related to hinterland accessibility. The accessibility measures also allow to estimate hinterland overlap between ports which is relevant from a port competition perspective. These figures can also be employed to check the usefulness of commonly applied delimitations of port ranges and port regions like the Rhine-Scheldt Delta and the Hamburg-Le Havre range. To evaluate the robustness of the current distribution of port activities in Europe we investigate what the effect would be of changes in parameter values in the accessibility function and of policies that penalise north-western European ports. We conclude that major changes in the general port layout of Europe are not to be expected.