Chapter 4: Geography versus topology in the evolution of the global container shipping network (1977–2016)
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The dynamic properties of so-called spatial and complex networks are often overlooked in graph theory and network science in general. Container shipping provides a rare example of a global transport network that has undergone tremendous technological and geographic changes in the last decades or so. This chapter proposes for the first time an empirical analysis of no less than 40 years of inter-port vessel movement data to describe the evolving properties of the global container shipping network. Main results confirm a number of stylized facts, including the growing size, connectivity and centralization of this network due to several factors such as economies of scale in liner shipping and the rationalization of related maritime services, the emergence of hub ports, etc. We also provide a new cartography of how the global container shipping network had been geographically distributed over time, thereby highlighting major shifts in terms of port hierarchies and main corridors. We believe that this chapter will contribute to a better understanding of the complex linkages between network structure, technological change and spatial change, opening the way for new research paths on maritime transport research and network science in general when focusing on evolutionary dynamics.

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