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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Port administration structures : (a study relating the characteristics of proficiency and autonomy in ports) McMullan, Wallace Edward


This thesis is concerned with the various structures under which ports are administered. It is a curious fact that there are a great number of different types of port administration structures through which the major seaports of the world are administered. One important question out of which this thesis grew is: Given the variety of port administrative structures, what can be said in defense or in favor of each of these various forms of administration? This thesis reviews the goals of port activities and the methodology of port operations. Subsequently, the opinions of writers in the field are summarized and outlined. The results of a study of a series of reports by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (sections concerning port operations) are then reported. Finally, the thesis outlines the findings of a field study involving the Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Port of Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. A thesis on such a general subject as Port Administration Structure may, at first, seem too broad and too nebulous for objective study. The necessity of subjecting the present structure of ports' administrative systems in Canada to objective analysis, is reason enough for a government white paper, which is presently in the making at National Harbours Board headquarters in Ottawa. An important problem of this thesis, is that of holding exogenous variables constant, particularly the variable--the quality of management personnel. In order to find a relationship between the variable, management structure, all other variables have to be held reasonably constant. A variety of methodologies are used to draw information on the subject. Firstly, there is a review of literature available on the subject of port administration and systems of port administration. Herein, an appeal is made to the statements of professionals or "experts" in port administration. Secondly, a study is made of a series of reports on specific port operations throughout the world. These studies were classified according to (1) type of administrative structure, and (2) quality of port operations. A matrix was set up to correlate the findings. Thirdly, and finally, a field study was made (utilizing interview methodology) on two major ports of the region. The field study report, although admittedly shallow, attempted to analyze the ports around the foci. 1. Structure (also degree of autonomy), and 2. Performance.¹ The most basic conclusion to grow out of this thesis was that, by and large, major seaports are best run--most proficiently run--when they are run by professional management from the locality of the harbour, and through a structure of administration which is completely autonomous with regards to day-to-day operations, and relatively autonomous with regard to long-run planning. ¹ This is similar to what was done in the study of reports on world ports by the International Bank mentioned above.

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