Sihyun Kim


Amidst intense port competition in Northeast Asia, competitiveness in port operations is a critical issue in adopting and implementing sustainability practice that incorporate economic, environmental, social and operational perspectives. Notwithstanding the importance of sustainability practice for sustainable port operations, very few studies have investigated its links with operational sustainability and competitiveness. For this reason, in order to encourage the proactive adoption and implementation of sustainability practice in port operations, this study aims to analyse the role of sustainability practice in managing competitiveness and continuous improvements in operational performance, based on mega container ports operations. To address this issue, this study adopted a two-phase research design which incorporates a preliminary field study and empirical research. At first, to understand the specific and general features of sustainability practice in commercial port operations, preliminary field work through semi-structured face-to-face interviews were undertaken. Interviews validated the attributes of sustainability practice in the container port operational context, investigating the relevant issues. Thereafter, based on data collected from 203 organisations engaged in container port operations in Northeast Asia, the feasible relationships among sustainability practice, competitiveness and performance were analysed using hierarchical moderator regression analysis in SPSS 21. Finally, the results revealed that sustainability practice has a significant contribution as a moderator to the relationship between competitiveness, particularly in operational efficiency and service quality, and operational performance. The two-phase research design made it possible to define and validate the role of sustainability practice in managing the relationship between competitiveness and performance. With regard to theory, this study has placed the case of Northeast Asia in a global context. Secondly, the direct relationships between determinants of megaport competitiveness and performance in the context of container port operations were verified. Thirdly, the specific routes, what is achievable and how sustainability practice contributes to enhancing the relationships between determinants of megaport competitiveness and operational performance, were revealed in a container port operational context. For the ports industries, this study has provided useful insights to establish strategies for sustainable port operations and a strategic agenda to assist ports to incorporate sustainability practice, providing evidence that this will contribute to enhancing their overall competitiveness. The findings are expected to be utilised further in future studies on sustainable port development and operations, as well as to provide guidance for port operators in its future improvement strategy.

Document Type


Publication Date