Maritime Business: A Paradigm of Global Business
- Gelina HarlaftisGelina HarlaftisDepartment of History, Ionian University
- and Ioannis TheotokasIoannis TheotokasDepartment of Maritime Studies, University of Piraues
Maritime business is a paradigm of a global business. Its importance cannot be underrated as 90% of the world’s trade is at the present day carried by sea. In fact, the vast majority of the goods that form our daily lives depend upon the shipping industry. As ships sail in the seas and oceans of the world, and as ports are nowadays hidden away and not part of the everyday life of people in port cities, much of the shipping business is invisible and remains so to the mainstream business and management literature. Maritime business since, at least, the early modern period has evolved as a main factor for the communication and formation of the international and eventually global markets.
Research in maritime business has evolved around the formation and transformation of shipping markets, the evolution of shipping firms and ship management, the effect of technology at sea transport and on its productivity and freight rates, on trends of the nationality of world fleet, and its denationalization or “flagging out,” on seafaring labor and risk at sea.
A shipping firm is the economic unit that uses the factors of production to produce and provide sea transport services. It serves the world trade system which was consolidated in the 19th century, and the formation and organization of shipping firms followed the type of cargoes that had to be carried: first, bulk commodities carried in huge quantities like raw materials and second manufactured and packaged goods. The first type of cargo has been served by the tramp/bulk shipping companies and the second type by the liner/container shipping companies. Technology has been a watershed in the formation and transformation of the shipping firm. Five periods can be distinguished in the last two centuries in the evolution of the shipping industry and the shipping firm according to transformation of shipping markets and the introduction of new technologies: (a) up to the 1820s, (b) from the 1830s to the 1870s, (c) from the 1880s to the 1930s, (d) from the 1940s to the 1970s, and (e) after the 1980s.
Until the last third of the 20th century Europe dominated the world fleet to be gradually replaced by the Asian fleets in the 21st century. Maritime business, is increasingly losing its “nationality” and is becoming global despite the fact that in sections of it there are powerful shipping families connected with certain nations. Shipping has always been a high-risk business, which, despite the evolution in many aspects of its operation, remains dependent on the acts of nature as well as on the acts of people, as the recent revitalization of piracy reveals.