Aug 10

The Southampton System: a new universal standard approach for port-city classification

Research Article

Toby Roberts Ian Williams  & John Preston 

Published online for Taylor and Francis: 10 Aug 2020


The most widely-used current system for classifying port-cities is limited to container ports, excluding other types of cargo and passengers. This limits the usefulness of research findings and policy recommendations.

A new system is proposed that includes passengers and all cargo types. In order to compare passenger numbers with cargo, the weight of ships from a sample of recent ship calls to Southampton was used to calculate the average cargo tonnage and passengers per tonne of ship. This led to the finding that 10 tonnes of cargo tonnage are equivalent to 1 passenger. This finding was validated with data from other ports and used as the basis for a new universal system (‘The Southampton System’), combining passenger numbers and cargo tonnage on one axis with urban population on another in a 4 × 4 matrix, creating 16 groupings of port-cities. The developed system was tested using data collected from 301 ports from around the world. These ports were successfully grouped, including ports that have not been included in previous systems due to a lack of containers. The Southampton System provides an effective and broader method for port-city classification, enabling more effective future study into, and policy recommendations for, port-cities.