Question Phuong Finance & Economics

Ports; Defining and Understanding Hinterland and Foreland

Can you give me some details about the hinterland and foreland of sea port (such as definition, classification,role) and the relationship between them?

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Answer Expert #26342

Ports are commercial operations which compete for business. However, the ports, with their customers may also be constrained by geographical factors. The markets they interact with may be examined through the geographical constructs of the hinterland and the foreland.

To understand a port it should be seen as part of a lager logistics network, acting as a node to connect sea and land transportation. The hinterland and foreland are concepts defining the spatial and functional ties of the port with the external environment. Hilling & Hoyle (1984) define the hinterland as part of a triptych of locations related by the flow of goods, perceived primarily as a captive market. However, as competition increased and ports sought out new business opportunities, this definition became outdated. Rodrigue & Notteboom (2010) now define it as the area over which the port has dominant market share, in the case of close competing ports, the area from which the majority of trade originates. In a competitive market two types of hinterland exist; firstly the fundamental or main hinterland, which accounts for the majority of a port's business, secondly the competition margin defined as an area where two or more ports may compete for business, and port users have increased choice or providers (Rodrigue, 2016). Notability, the competition margin, unlike the fundamental hinterland, may vary for imports and exports (Rodrigue, 2016).

The foreland is the maritime space which reflects the landward hinterland, and can include hub ports as well as overseas locations which are connected by shipping (Rodrigue & Notteboom, 2010). The port links the hinterland and the foreland as part of a logistics chain, creating a high level of interdependency and with hub ports the potential area of the hinterland can also be expanded.


Burns, M.G. (2014). Port Management and Operations. London: CRC Press.

Hilling, D. & Hoyle, B.S. (1984). patial approaches to port development. In: D. Hilling & B. S. Hoyle (eds.). Seaport systems and spatial change. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 1–19.

Rodrigue, J. (2016). The Geography of Transport Systems. [Online]. 2016. Hofstra University. Available from:

Rodrigue, J. & Notteboom, T. (2010). Foreland-based regionalization: Integrating intermediate hubs with port hinterlands. Research in Transportation Economics. 27 (1). p.pp. 19–29.