Prof. Dr. Gordon Wilmsmeier

Associate Professor for Shipping and Global Logistics

Director of the Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL)

Prof. Dr. Gordon Wilmsmeier

Associate Professor for Shipping and Global Logistics

Director of the Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL)

Gordon Wilmsmeier is Associate Professor for Shipping and Global Logistics at Kühne Logistics University. In addition, he holds the Kühne Professorial Chair in Logistics at the School of Management, Universidad de los Andes at Bogotá, Colombia. Further, he is the Director of the Project Development Office of the University´s Vice-presidency for Research and Creation.

From 2011 to 2017, Professor Wilmsmeier worked as Economic Affairs Officer in the Infrastructure Services Unit at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC). Previously, he worked at Edinburgh Napier University’s Transport Research Institute (TRI), Scotland and as consultant for UN-ECLAC, UNCTAD, UN-OHRLLS, the World Bank, Adelphi Research, JICA, IDB, CAF, OAS.

Professor Wilmsmeier received his PhD. in Geography from the University of Osnabrück and graduated as geographer from the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. Gordon’s research focuses on maritime transport geography and economics, port economics and inland shipping issues. Recent projects focus on port governance, sustainable port development, energy efficiency, competition in liner shipping market, digitalization and technology in supply chains, and nautical electromobility. He has published over 100 book chapters, journal papers, institutional publications and working papers. His recent books include: "Geographies of Maritime Transport" and "Maritime Mobilities".

Gordon Wilmsmeier is honorary professor for Maritime Geography at the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, Germany, visiting lecturer at Göteborg University, Sweden, and Associate Researcher of the Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL)at the Kühne Logistics University (KLU). He is leader of the global port performance research network (PPRN), and Vice-President of the International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME), member of the WCTRS Special Interest Group - Intermodal Freight, and associate member of PortEconomics. Since 2002 his research group is part of IDB´s university network “Energy Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Academic Positions

Since 9/2021

Associate Professor for Shipping and Global Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany
2017 - 2021Kühne Professorial Chair in Logistics, School of Management, University Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
2011 - 2017

Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC), Santiago, Chile

Since 2013Honorary Professor, University of Applied Sciences Bremen, Bremen, Germany

2007 - 2011

Principal Research Fellow, Transport Research Institute (TRI), Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburg, United Kingdom

2003 - 2010

Independent Research Fellow, Adelphi Reseach gGmbH and Adelphi Consult GmbH, Berlin, GmbH

2002 - 2006

Associate Researcher, Research and Resources for Sustainable Development (RIDES, NGO), Santiago, Chile

2001 - 2002Research Clerk, International Trade and Integration Division and Transport Unit, UN-ECLAC, Santiago, Chile
2000 - 2001Research Assistant, Department of Technology and Advancement, Sächsische Aufbaubank, Dresden, Germany


2005 - 2010     

Doctorate of Philosophy (Dr. phil.), Osnabrück University, Osnabrück, Germany
Thesis: International Maritime Transport Costs - A Multivariate Panel Data Analysis on the Role of
Liner Shipping Networks and Maritime Industry Structures

1995 - 2003

Diplom Geograph, Geography, Transport Planning and Informatics, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany

1991 - 1992High School Diploma, Alexis High School, Alexis, Illinois, United States
1985 - 1994Abitur, Marienschule der Ursulinen, Bielefeld, Germany

2013 - Honorary Mention RTBM Prize in Port Performance and Strategy

Gordon Wilmsmeier received an Honorary Mention by the judges of the RTBM Prize in Port Performance and Strategy for the paper "Port System Evolution - the Case of Latin America and the Caribbean" (together with Jason Monios and Gabriel Pérez-Salas).

Since 2020Vice President, International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME)
2010 - 2020Council Member, International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME)
Since 2019Associate Member, Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL), Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany
Since 2016Network Leader, Port Performance Network (PPRN)
Since 2010Associate Member, PortEconomics.EU
2007 - 2011Network Leader, S&W - Maritime Knowledge Network


DOI: 10.1057/s41278-022-00226-w 

Abstract: This paper considers two current challenges in the governance of maritime transport, specifically container shipping. The first is the oligopolistic market structure of container shipping, the downsides of which became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second challenge is climate change, both the need to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 and to adapt to effects that are already locked in. The paper reviews the academic and policy literature and unveils a link between these market and environmental challenges which result from a focus on efficiency without considering negative effects such as diseconomies of scale and induced traffic, leading to a continued rise in total industry carbon emissions. The review likewise identifies links in how policy-makers react to the two challenges. Regulators could remove anti-trust exemptions from carriers, and policy-makers are being pushed to provide strict decarbonisation targets with a coherent timeline for ending the use of fossil fuels. Recent thinking on ecological economics, degrowth and steady-state economics is introduced as the paradigm shift that could link these two policy evolutions.

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Open reference in new window "Maritime governance after COVID-19: how responses to market developments and environmental challenges lead towards degrowth"

DOI: 10.1186/s41072-021-00103-4 

Abstract: This study examines the concept of transparency as practiced (or not) in ports. It explores the availability of information to the general public and port stakeholders through the ports’ most public face—its website, studying public ports in North America, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean. This exploratory research centred on identifying the parameters that would be useful for the general public to have sufficient information to monitor, review and in many cases, participate in the decision-making processes carried out by the port authority, irrespective of whether or not laws mandate such disclosure. Fifty-one items were identified for the examination of each port’s website, focusing primarily on four major categories: decision-making governance, port communications and accessibility, transparency in reporting and in port operational activities. Using nine items as proxies for the 51, the research reveals uneven levels of port transparency both regionally and by governance model. The study reveals a need for increasing and differentiating the existing levels and standards of transparency in the governance of the port industry, and for greater consistency between ports within and across regions. The study concludes with a research agenda for future research.

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Open reference in new window "Transparency in port governance: setting a research agenda"


Abstract: Port facilities expand or are relocated from their original locations according to several factors, such as outgrowing a limited space or avoiding clashes of use with expanding cities. Previous spatial models such as the famous Anyport model imply a natural evolution in port systems which can in reality be complicated by issues of port governance and competition. The goal of this paper is to enrich the Anyport model with insights from port governance and the port life cycle model, focusing on strategies of port actors to avert a potential decline when the port reaches geographical or economic constraints. The empirical application explores the evolution over five decades of the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador's primary port and the second-busiest container port on the west coast of South America. In the 1990s and 2000s, port governance reform introduced devolution from the national level to local port authorities, the signing of terminal concessions to private operators and competition from other ports in the vicinity. In 2006 a new deep-water port, 85 km downriver and in a different governance jurisdiction, was proposed. Continuous legal and operational challenges stalled the construction of the new port, until it finally entered into operation in 2019. Despite this development, the existing Guayaquil port decided to go ahead with more channel dredging and to extend the existing container terminal concession for an additional 20 years in order to maintain its operations. Thus, rather than a simple port migration to deeper water based on specialisation of tasks between deep sea and feeder activities, what has emerged is a competitive situation for the same hinterland between old and new ports. The port life cycle model provides a more dynamic view than purely spatial models, highlighting governance conflicts between local and national levels, power dynamics between global carriers and port terminal operators, changes in intra- and inter-port competition and horizontal complexities arising from municipal and regional boundaries between existing and available port locations.

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Open reference in new window "Port system evolution in Ecuador - Migration, location splitting or specialisation?"

DOI: 10.1007/s13437-021-00250-2 

Abstract: Transparency remains an under-analyzed topic in port research, and previous research has shown that port decision-making and governance reporting are inconsistent across countries. While transparency might be imposed through legislation or voluntarily adopted, effective transparency also includes (a) an organization’s willingness to consistently communicate and make transparent information available to internal or external stakeholders and (b) the stakeholder`s expectations on the visibility and verifiability of information. This paper focuses primarily on the second of these, extending an earlier study that explored the availability of information accessible to the public and port stakeholders through a port’s most public face—its website (Brooks et al. 2020). This research examines a subset of 27 governance variables from Brooks et al. (2020), who explored 59 separate items to identify transparency practices by ports, revealing uneven levels of port transparency. The scope is to identify what different port stakeholders expect to be visible and readily available in terms of board meeting openness, board director conflict of interest, board provided information, and board reports/publications. Stakeholders also provided their perceptions of how trustworthy board reporting was perceived. The data set includes 134 usable responses from 38 countries and this paper analyzes similarities and differences across stakeholders and countries. The responses from the survey are also considered in the light of the results from Brooks et al. (2020) and the extent that ports currently make these variables visible and available. The study concludes by discussing a further research agenda towards a more transparent and thus better port industry.

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Open reference in new window "Visibility and verifiability in port governance transparency: exploring stakeholder expectations"


Abstract: In recent years a significant body of work has been established on climate change adaptation by ports. Like climate change mitigation, work towards adaptation has stalled on the same collective action problem, whereby public and private sector actors avoid commitment to necessary investments. Recently the concept of ‘deep adaptation’ has appeared, which suggests that, rather than climate change bringing simply incremental challenges that can be adapted to in a piecemeal fashion, in fact, we should expect ‘disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war’. However, current port and shipping forecasts continue to predict uninterrupted growth with only minor incremental policy changes already known to be insufficient for mitigation and adaptation. Thus, this paper argues that actors in the maritime transport sector need to consider greater threats than those currently identified and also prepare for a more advanced adaptation timetable.

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Open reference in new window "Deep adaptation to climate change in the maritime transport sector - a new paradigm for maritime economics?"

Abstract: This multidisciplinary book delivers a unique collection of well-considered, empirically rich and critical contributions on maritime transport geographies. It covers a wide range of markets and territories as well as institutional, environmental and future issues.

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Open reference in new window "Geographies of Maritime Transport"

Abstract: Based on in-depth empirical research, this book develops our understanding of maritime transport costs, the maritime industry and the competitiveness of regions in a global market environment through a geographical lens. Further, the book uses a unique set of data that gives an extensive insight into Latin American international maritime transport costs and its determinants. This is a clear call for policy makers and port authorities to strengthen transnational cooperation in order to improve the development of the whole system of maritime transport, focusing on the causes that put regions at risk of becoming peripheral and uncompetitive.

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Open reference in new window "International Maritime Transport Costs - Market Structures and Network Configurations"

DOI: 10.4337/9781800884298.00023 

Abstract: This chapter discusses the recent concepts of “deep adaptation” and “collapsology”, which argue that, rather than climate change bringing discrete challenges to which cities can adapt separately, we should rather expect “disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war”. These perspectives are then extended via the “fragile world” hypothesis, which argues that the interconnectedness of modern systems produces a level of fragility that leads to an existential risk. It is argued that these perspectives have arisen as a response to climate mainstreaming and post-politics that have co-opted climate concerns and prevented meaningful action. While cities can adapt to individual climate change threats such as sea level rise and storms by various methods such as reinforced infrastructure, the fragility arising from the interconnectedness of modern systems leaves them vulnerable to systems collapse(s). These collapses can arise from the breakdown of global supply chains disrupting supply of food and other essential goods as well as the breakdown of global or even national energy, water and communication systems. This chapter accordingly argues that normal concepts of resilience that aim to overcome disruptions and return to business as usual are flawed. Instead, “deep adaptation” is needed, moving towards economic models based on degrowth and key systems reoriented towards localised supply and storage designed on principles of redundancy rather than efficiency.

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Open reference in new window "Deep adaptation and collapsology"


Abstract: Dry ports are one key option in effective port hinterland integration. This article discusses the development of the dry port discussion over the last three decades and identifies the current main challenges and potential to make these part of more sustainable transport systems.

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Open reference in new window "Dry Ports"


Abstract: This chapter analyses the evolution of the container shipping sector and considers whether the market can now be considered mature, and, if so, what comes next, drawing on traditional theoretical concepts relating to market cycles and economies of scale. The life cycle theory is applied to the container shipping sector, demonstrating that the sector is at the stage of maturity; but whether it will decline or be reinvigorated is open to question. Finally, the chapter considers whether the current challenges to the sector will lead to a new phase or to a decline.

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Open reference in new window "Container shipping: beyond the era of maturity?"


Abstract: Arctic shipping is frequently seen as a way of reducing transit time and distance on traditional East–West shipping routes. However, this potential of trade and making it economically viable and competitive has to be differentiated by the type of shipping sector and traffic, and according to changing market environments. Arctic shipping might also play a key role in exploiting recently discovered natural resources close to the Arctic Sea Routes. The exploitation of these resources is challenging, but also offers significant market prospects and commercial opportunities. The use of tankers in the Arctic is not a new phenomenon, but the volume of exploitable cargo would make Arctic shipping one of the biggest future tanker markets. A significant challenge is to deliver shipping services in the most environmentally sound manner and adapting to the extreme physical conditions, with temperatures below -50°C and multiyear ice covering the water surface. The pristine ecosystem in the Arctic is particularly vulnerable as the natural breakdown of pollutants is slower in these climatic conditions. Before the Arctic can reliably be used on a large scale for transit by shipping along its routes and passages, more investment is required in infrastructure and the provision of marine services. Integration will be a key issue as navigation in the Arctic may impact stakeholders beyond the region, as the region has the potential to evolve as one of the critical waterways for international shipping in the future.

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Open reference in new window "Arctic sea routes - a new geography for shipping"