Water transport, a component of integrated transport systems, is a key strategic resource for achieving sustainable economic and social development, particularly in the Yangtze River Economic Zone (YREZ). Unfortunately, systematic studies on water transport efficiency are not forthcoming. Using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) and the Malmquist index as a model framework, this paper measures water transport efficiency in YREZ, conducts spatial analysis to identify the leading factors influencing efficiency, and provides scientific evidence for a macroscopic grasp of water transport development and the optimization of YREZ. The results indicate that water transport technical efficiency (TE) in YREZ is low and in fluctuating decline. Therefore, it has seriously restricted performance and improvements in the service function. Additionally, the spatial pattern of TE has gradually changed from complexity and dispersion to clarity and contiguity with a larger inter-provincial gap. Water transport efficiency has slightly improved through technological change (TECHch), whereas deteriorating pure technical efficiency change (PEch) is the main cause of a TE decrease. According to our findings, decision-makers should consider strengthening intra-port competition and promoting water transport efficiency.
- DEA and Malmquist index model
- Spatial pattern evolution
- The Yangtze River Economic Zone (YREZ)
- Water transport efficiency