The freight market in the shipping industry is cyclical and volatile. In particular, global shipping has experienced huge changes over the past decade. In 2015, shipping slowed as carriers and ports were still adding capacity. This drove several shipping companies into bankruptcy, and others into mergers and new strategic partnerships to survive. The purpose of this special themed issue on global shipping and ports is to examine how the shift in global trade has affected global shipping, port competitiveness, and performance including shipping and port services, multi-modal shipping, hinterland services, maritime supporting services, linkages to global supply chains, as well as how shipping and ports respond to sustain their competitiveness. This first issue deals with how new competitive pressures affect decision-making and design in carriers and ports.