Japan: the Port of Kobe
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On 17 January 1995, the Japanese city of Kobe was partially destroyed by the major Hanshin-Awaji earthquake (7.2 on the Richter scale). More than 5,000 people were killed, 240,000 were made homeless, virtually all the telephone lines were down, the electricity, gas and water supplies were cut off and only a fraction of the 116 kilometre-long quay survived the earthquake undamaged. It may be wondered why a researcher would want to visit a port in these exceptional circumstances a year after the event. The purpose of this study is to gain a clear picture of the ways in which ports are managed. In times of disaster and reconstruction in particular, authority and dependency relationships are more clearly visible than under normal circumstances. After all, the necessity for rapid reconstruction is clearly felt because valuable market shares could otherwise be lost. A typical feature of the reconstruction of Kobe is the way the mayor was publicly blamed for the fact that the aid was so badly organised and that it took so long before aid operations could begin. There are two reasons for this: on the one hand an earthquake in this part of the country was totally unexpected and on the other hand there is the idiosyncratic way in which the political arena, administrative authorities and the business community are interlinked so that sudden unexpected events cause a power vacuum (cf. Chen, 1995). It is this last element which makes it very interesting to include a Japanese port in our comparative analysis.
KeywordsForeign Trade Business Community Container Terminal Shipping Company District Office
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