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Characterizing the evolution of the Yangtze River Delta multi-port system using compositional data techniques

Dong Huang, Manel Grifoll, Hongxiang Feng, María Isabel Ortego and Pengjun Zheng

Maritime Policy & Management, 2022, vol. 49, issue 5, 667-684

Abstract: The Yangtze River Delta multi-port system (YMPS) receives increasing attention due to its relevance in world trade and excellent competitiveness in the container traffic market. To insight into the development pattern of YMPS, this paper proposes a method that combines the Hierarchical Clustering with compositional data (CoDa) exploratory tools (i.e., biplot and dendrogram) to explore the temporal and spatial evolution of the YMPS from 1992 to 2019. CoDa describes parts of some whole (i.e., frequency and percentage), conveying relative information in the ratios between its components. Container traffic share in a multi-port region is typical CoDa. Traditional statistical approaches to CoDa could lead to spurious correlations and erroneous conclusions. However, using suitable CoDa techniques, such as the centered log-ratio (clr) transformation, can effectively avoid these misinterpretations. The novel method can simultaneously find the temporal and spatial characteristics. The findings indicate that the development of the YMPS has gone through four stages and the evolution of the YMPS is characterized by a tendency towards a ‘multi-core development’ and faces a differentiated pattern of ‘peripheral port challenges’. The analysis further improves the port system’s evolutionary model and explains the underlying reason for the YMPS development. CoDa techniques also provide a new perspective for the temporal and spatial evolution of the transport discipline.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1080/03088839.2021.1972175

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