Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2018
Resources and infrastructures represent two elements that interact in complex ways to support and shape economic activity. In the context of maritime endeavours, this interaction unfolds over relatively wide geographic areas and exhibits great complexity, since it is influenced by diverse and sometimes conflicting legal, social, cultural and institutional forces. Impacted in numerous ways by these variables, flows of resources, such as capital, goods, information, people and productive assets (even those that following their initial deployment become fixed) are coordinated with the aid of different kinds of infrastructures. Considering the latter from a maritime perspective immediately brings to mind physical infrastructures in particular ports. But intangible frameworks, including those networks of business contacts that constitute communication systems, social and cultural constructs that shape patterns of thought and behaviour, as well as formally constituted (legal) structures, exert a coordinating or mediating influence upon patterns of resource allocation. Both of these generic types of infrastructure - physical and intangible - develop sector-specific attributes: those employed to support maritime activities differ from those used for land-based purposes. Within these broad sectors, individual industries develop their own specialised infrastructures to meet their resource coordinating requirements. In the maritime context, the chapters below analyse both physical and intangible infrastructures. The former are examined directly by Elisabetta Tonizzi and James Reveley and Malcolm Tuli, who evaluate ports and port policies in three different countries, while Michael Miller and Leos Müller and Jari Ojala consider non-physical forms - respectively, agency structures and consular networks. John Chircop explores a complex infrastructure consisting of social, cultural, economic and psychological ties. Hrefna Karlsdóttir examines a defective informal bargaining framework, and Carol Hill and Poul Holm refer to ports as well as intangible infrastructures that shaped capital and commodity flows.
Both of the main infrastructure types, as well as the more specific forms, helped to determine the cost of conducting economic activities and in a wide sense the benefits obtained by diverse constituents. The configuration of these frameworks was important, for it reflected the ways they structured, condensed and sometimes filtered various resource flows. Specialised or generalised capabilities determined the range of their coordinating or mediating functions and the efficiency they exhibited in shaping flows of factors of production, intermediate goods and services and outputs.
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