The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 172

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8 November 2011

Shipping as a complex adaptive system: A new approach in understanding international trade

If we consider worldwide maritime shipping as a system, we observe that a large number of independent rational agents play a role in achieving predominant positions and in increasing market share: port authorities, shipping service providers, shipping companies and commodity producers.

The maritime industry can, from this perspective, be defined as a Complex System composed of relatively independent parts that constantly search, learn and adapt to their environment while their mutual interactions shape hidden but recognisable patterns. In this work we examined the world maritime system through the Complex Adaptive System (CAS). Although CAS  has been widely applied to the study of biological and social systems, its application in maritime shipping is scant, therefore our objective is to examine international trade shipping characteristics as a CAS and identify emerging global trends in the international maritime industry. We conclude presenting some of the goals that will be achieved by applying CAS approach in maritime trade: the construction of a tenable ontological framework will allow scholars to have a compressive view of the maritime industry and test the reliability of standard economic theories.

Authors: Simone Caschili and Francesca Romana Medda

Publication Date: 11/2011


Download working paper No. 172.