Systemic coordination of organizational roles: The importance of relational capital in port governance

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Modern ports face not only a paradox of combining efficiency and effectiveness, but also a paradox of balancing activities characterized by different time horizons and stakeholder expectations. The structural changes underlying these paradoxes are the co-existence of downward pressures on market premiums and the increasing demands on the relational capabilities of port authorities. The increasing demand on relational capabilities is caused by the fact that modern ports are hubs for industrial activities that span the organizational boundaries of firms, integrating port systems and the hinterland. Thus, port authorities must simultaneously focus on cost efficiency and systemic coordination within complex port systems. As indicated by recent research on port governance and competitiveness, this implies that port authorities must assume and combine different organizational roles. The present paper takes this discussion further by classifying the organizational roles of port authorities in terms of role complexity, relational capital, and systemic functions within the port system. Based on a case study, the paper shows that the use of systemic functions implies the development of new business models, and that the adoption of the roles by port authorities depends on how emerging relational capabilities are embedded in structures of value co-creation and value co-capture.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Transportation Business & Management
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Business model innovation
  • Port governance
  • Relational capability
  • Relational capital
  • Value co-capture
  • Value co-creation


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