Strategic management in the global container shipping industry
Container shipping is of immense importance to global industry, and one of the critical enablers of globalisation. Analysis of the global container shipping industry suggests the potential for significant economies of scope and scale, and hence low costs and high efficiency, both recognised benefits of a global strategy. However, the global activities of container shipping lines are subject to a series of countervailing pressures, in particular, state regulation, shipper power, and the constant threat of competition. In an industry where differentiation has been absent, or at best difficult to achieve, there exists a growing belief amongst industry leaders that competitive advantage can be secured through providing a higher level intermodal service with a global network. This project identifies these and other important strategic management issuesr elating to containers hipping. it comparess trategiesa doptedb y industry leaders Sea-Land Service Inc. and Evergreen Line, two firms appearing to exhibit different modes of operation. Key differences in the strategies adopted by these lines' are identified. Through application of an established theoretical framework to help finther analyset he strategieso f thesec ompetitors,a nd aided by in-depth interviews with executives from each firm, it has been possible to identify specific organisational pressures associated with the conflicting needs for global operationali ntegration of activities and for local responsivenessT. he study has found that, in the global container shipping industry, competitors must implement strategies that facilitate a capability for both global integration and for local responsivenessT. his means that firms participating in the global container shipping industry must be multifocal; they must seek to develop the capability to manage both sets of demands simultaneously. Nevertheless, it is evident that whilst eachf irm is subjectt o broadly similar pressuresin respecto f the needs for integration and responsiveness, they adopt rather different strategies in attempting to meet these needs. With Sea-Land there is clearly an intermodal orientation, with more emphasis placed on intermodal capabilities and landside activities than on maritime aspects. Conversely, Evergreen Line was found to have a predominantly maritime orientation, placing greater emphasis on ships and containers and rather less emphasis on landside activities. These and other differences between carrier strategies relate to the series of strategic choices global liner shipping companies must make regarding the specific assets and operations necessary to provide a global container service. Using the grounded theory approach, a theoretical framework specific to the global container shipping industry has been developed that outlines these choices, illustrating the various options open to industry competitors. Entitled Strategic Choice in Container Shipping, the framework can be used as a teaching instrument to help explain industry complexity, and as an analytical tool to aid management decision-making and strategic planning.