Pricing with risk sensitive competing container shipping lines: Will risk seeking do more good than harm?

Tsan Ming Choi, Sai Ho Chung, Xiaopo Zhuo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Container-shipping-lines (CSLs) operate in a highly competitive market with high demand volatility. Unlike many other industries in which risk-averse attitude is dominating, it is well known that many CSLs exhibit risk-seeking behaviors. In this paper, by using the mean-risk formulation, we analytically study the effects of risk attitude and demand volatility on the service pricing game between two CSLs. We find that the equilibrium prices increase when CSLs can accept more risk, and being slightly risk-seeking can help maximize the expected profits of both CSLs. We discover the risk-attitude convergence effect, which theoretically reveals that the “optimal risk attitudes” for the CSLs move in the same direction. Therefore, our research suggests that both CSLs should hire slightly risk-seeking managers in a competitive shipping market. In addition, we explore the impacts brought by demand volatility and find that the equilibrium prices increase (decrease) in the demand volatility when CSLs are risk-seeking (risk-averse). We uncover that when an individual CSL's risk sensitivity level is small and its rival is risk-seeking, its own expected profit under the decentralized case could be larger than that in centralized case. Finally, for robustness checking of our research findings, we investigate the scenarios with multiplicative randomness of demand, asymmetric information on risk attitude and multiple (more than two) competing CSLs, and find that our main findings still hold. Counterintuitively, in the case with multiplicatively random demand, we analytically find that CSLs may not prefer a large market potential when they are risk-averse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-229
Number of pages20
JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Container shipping lines
  • Demand volatility
  • Mean-risk framework
  • Price competition
  • Risk attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation

Cite this