A global distribution channel with a reliable freight transport system is essential in the contemporary world economy. Acting as trade facilitators, seaports are important players in the system. The study of the role of ports in supply chain management has recently drawn increasing attention from researchers and industry professionals alike. However, prior works mainly gathered the views from ports and terminals. To the authors’ knowledge, no attempt by previous empirical studies has been made to cover the perspective from shippers and logistics providers, who are obviously taking a serious role in the process of global freight movements as major stakeholders. It becomes thus imperative to assess a port’s supply chain orientation and performance from the perspective of the port users in the supply chain. Studying ports in the network context would be even more beneficial to capture the complexity needed to understand port performance and its interaction with various stakeholders. Drawing reference from multi-disciplinary fields, this paper aims to fill in the gap by developing a so-called unified framework for analysing port’s integration in global freight supply chains including shipping line networks, hinterland and intermodal transport network, and even urban network. The framework embraces a wider group of stakeholders involved, for example, terminal operators, port authorities, shippers, shipping companies, inland transport providers, freight forwarders/logistics service providers, cities and other ports in the networks. A port that is a key node in these networks simultaneously would be able to create and sustain value for port stakeholders. Port authorities and operators can refer to the framework as their network performance indicators so as to obtain a better understanding of the various considerations in a port’s network performance and to assist in positioning the port within the complex dynamics in the context of global freight supply chains. Finally, the framework developed in the paper can serve as a guide to empirical examinations of an emerging theme - a network-oriented performance by seaports along global freight supply chains - leading to various possible channels in future research.
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