UNCTAD and Port Performance

Cover of the Review of Maritime Transport 2020 by UNCTAD

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are in Geneva (Switzerland). UNCTAD supports developing countries in accessing the benefits of a globalized economy more fairly and effectively, by providing analysis, consensus-building, and technical assistance. Its focus is predominantly on trade, investment, finance, and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.

Nevertheless, national and international port systems constitute a privileged field of research and activity for this organization:

  • In 1976, UNCTAD developed one of the first studies on port performance by providing 18 indicators divided into two broad categories: financial (7 indicators) and operational (11 indicators).
  • UNCTAD has developed Port Management Monographs, gathering in-depth reports on national and international port systems addressed through various analytical perspectives. In some cases, the reports are focused at terminal level while in others they deal with the port as a whole.
  • Published in 2016, the report “Port Performance Linking Performance Indicators to Strategic Objectives” (Port Management Series, volume 4) defines a focus on management benchmarking across a cooperative network of ports, and aims to build a port performance scorecard. The document contains country-level port performance measures, which are an average of many disparate port environments. The report attempts to select measures for port services at cargo mode level, which also provides a product mix profile for the port. A port performance scorecard is presented based on four strategic dimensions, i.e. finance, operations, human resources and market. This port-wise scorecard is analogous to the Kaplan and Norton balanced scorecard, a tool that is used to link strategy with performance. The UNCTAD report also addresses additional issues related to port authorities, such as finance and human resource management.
  • Since 1968, UNCTAD has published “Review of Maritime Transport” on an annual basis. This review provides an analysis of structural and cyclical changes affecting seaborne trade, and ports and shipping, as well as an exhaustive collection of statistical information. Several port performance indicators are reported in the annual reviews as well as on its website: port throughput, vessel calls, liner shipping connectivity, ship size indicators, container berth productivity and vessel turnaround times in ports.

For further information: consult the UNCTAD website.