The Rise and Fall of the Maritime Mainport

The Rise and Fall of the Maritime Mainport


B Kuipers, TNO Inro, NL



In the late 1980s, the seaport of Rotterdam and Schiphol airport became mainports. The mainport originally is a policy concept related to the forward and backward linkages of large transportation nodes. But the mainport concept also is a transport concept, also referred to as the hub in hub-and-spoke networks or the gateway concept. In the year 2000 the dominant position of the mainport in policymaking decreased. Interestingly, the decrease of the importance of the mainport as a policy concept was accompanied by a decrease of the importance of the mainport as a transport concept.

This paper describes the rise and fall of the maritime mainport. It starts with a definition of the mainport and with a discussion of the popularity of the concept in the Netherlands. Second an overview will be presented of port concentration and mainport development in Europe during the period 1985-2000. Third, the economic linkages of the mainport will be presented in detail and a discussion will be started on a ?domino-effect?, in which the economic effects of the mainport are linked to the whole economy. This domino effect is called the ?distrubution hypothesis?. Special attention will be given to the relation between the mainport and the European Distribution centre. Fourth, some alternative visions of mainport development will be presented. The brainport, launched as the ?new economy? version of the mainport, will be described in detail. Fifth, a new policy and port paradigm will be discussed: the port network, which most likely the successor of the mainport concept. Finally, possible policy implications of the port network concept will be presented.


Association for European Transport