Supply chain disruptions continue to be a significant challenge as the world economy recovers from the pandemic-related shutdowns that have strained global supply chains. Shocks challenge the adaptability and resilience of maritime ports. The reaction of automated container terminals to supply chain disruptions has renewed interest, given the dramatic scenes of ships anchored for weeks. In this dissertation, I provide a vision of how technology can enhance a port’s ability to anticipate and handle shocks by improving coordination, cooperation, and information exchange across port stakeholders. The vision will be helpful for academics and practitioners to perform research that advances theory and practice on the use of advanced technologies to improve port operations. I use complex adaptive systems theory to develop a qualitative cross-case study of the ports of Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Rotterdam. I examine the effect that automation and other technologies have had on the efficiency of these ports, both in daily operations and during the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using critical tenets of complexity and with a rigorous application of the case study method, I develop theoretical propositions and practical insights to ground the vision of the port of the future based on current practices. The findings from the cross-case study suggest that automated terminals were more efficient during the pandemic than non-automated terminals. I propose that transitioning to higher levels of automation, supported by emerging technologies like blockchain and the internet of things, will make ports more resilient to supply chain disruptions when those systems are coordinated through Port Community Systems.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Business logistics; Marine terminal--management; Automation

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Nelson Granados