WIT Press

Quantitative characteristics for port generations: The Italian case study


Free (open access)


Volume 4 (2020), Issue 2



Page Range

103 - 112

Paper DOI



WIT Press


Francesco Russo & Giuseppe Musolino


Several classifications of ports were proposed in the literature, but there is no single established or accepted framework or taxonomy due to the complexity and diversity of the port entities.

In 1990s, UNCTAD  introduced a new classification based on the definition of port-generation, according to which some prevalent ports’ characteristics could be associated to discrete time periods, the so-called generations. UNCTAD fully defined the characteristics of three generations of ports, while the fourth-generation port was less specified. Later, several researchers criticized the definition of port-generation and proposed new elements of classification, mainly of qualitative nature.

The objective of the paper regards to the definition of an operative basis for the quantitative specification of ports’ characteristics, based on UNCTAD port-generation approach. the definition of a specific generation for a port is not a vote, or an element of ranking; but, a synthetic indicator about his main role in the worldwide network. Several ports were object, in the time, of a process of hybridization. They were born with specific characteristics and, later, they evolved in acquiring new ones.

The paper, after the presentation of a revised port-generation classification, proposes some indicators to identify each of the three generations defined by UNCTAD. The applicative section presents the preliminary results of the calculation of the specified indicators to a set of italian ports.


commercial ports, port-generation approach, quantitative indicators