Digital Innovation in the Port Sector: Barriers and Facilitators

The paper “Digital Innovation in the Port Sector: Barriers and Facilitators” (Carlan, V., Sys, C., Vaneslander, T., Roumboutsos, A.) was presented at the 5th Conference on the Regulation of Infrastructures (24 June 2016).


Digital innovation changes industry as a whole, including the port sector. The present paper examines in detail 32 ICT innovation cases collected between Autumn 2013 and Spring 2015. Leading actors along the maritime supply chain were asked to indicate the importance and to assess the degree of the success achieved in each ICT innovation initiative, to identify the driving forces behind the adoption of innovation and to denote the associated costs and benefits. This input allows identifying the barriers of digital innovation from initiation through to implementation, as well as assessing the impact of facilitators of ICT innovation. To do this, the present research combines four quantitative instruments. The added value of this combined approach is a deeper understanding of the digital innovation process within the port sector.

The research firstly indicates that alignment exists between company strategies and success degrees in the port sector, in contrast to non-ICT initiatives. The ICT innovation initiatives are also profit-driven. Secondly, the port sector should be more open to disclose cost and benefit info, and should conduct more such analyses. Next, there are conditions that improve the degree of success. Overall, terminal alignment with the right ICT infrastructure proves key. But too many divergent interests among the stakeholders entail that digital innovation challenges the ability to cooperate. An important finding: regulation was not identified as a barrier nor as a facilitator.


Dr. Christa Sys jointly graduated as a doctor in Applied Economics at the Ghent University and the University of Antwerp (December 2010). Her doctoral research dealt with the competitive conditions, the concentration and the market structure of the container liner shipping industry (link). This research was awarded by the Section of Technical Sciences of the Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences with the General Manager Fernand Suykens Prize for Port Studies.

Until October 2013, Christa Sys was scientific director of the Research Centre on Freight and passengers flows. She currently is holder of the BNP Paribas Fortis chair on transport, logistics and ports at the Department of Transport and Regional Economics. Next, she is course co-ordinator for the courses ‘Business Environment’, ‘Maritime Economics and Businesses’ and ‘Maritime Supply Chain’ at the Centre for Maritime and Air Transport (C-MAT). She also teaches at the Faculty of Applied Economics and at the University College Ghent, Faculty of Applied Business (Member of Ghent University Association). Her educational activities focus on inland transportation and (operational aspects of) maritime transport. Her research centres on maritime economics and co-operation and competition in shipping.



Presentation given by Christa Sys


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