Partner Selection for Strategic Alliances: Case Study Insights from the Maritime Industry

Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 110, No.6, pp. 841-860 (2010)

25 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2015

See all articles by Marina Solesvik

Marina Solesvik

Stord Haugesund University College

Paul Westhead

Durham University

Date Written: May 15, 2010


Purpose - The purpose of this exploratory study is to examine the partner selection criteria reported by maritime firms in Norway. This study aims to analyze how a maritime firm’s competitive advantage can be enhanced by the selection of the right partner with reference to a strategic alliance.

Design/methodology/approach - A multiple-case study methodology was used. Archival, survey and interview data were explored relating to the partner selection process reported by Norwegian maritime firms. Primary data was gathered from semi-structured personal interviews with managers of Norwegian maritime firms.

Findings - Case study evidence suggests that the strategic alliances were successful when partners had been carefully selected. As detected elsewhere, successful alliances were associated with partners that had managed to build trustful and honest relationships, had common strategic goals, and partners that supplied resources and competencies. Notably, we detected that cyclicality in the maritime industry shaped the partner selection process. Trust between partners was used as mechanism to reduce uncertainty relating to the strategic alliance process. Firms seeking long-term alliances selected partners with substantial capital and financial stability to survive a market’s downturn, as well as the resources required for expansion during a recession.

Practical implications - Presented findings have implications for practitioners, especially for managers of shipping firms, banks, shipyards, producers of ship equipment, ship design firms, and ship brokers. Practitioners need to be aware that the rationale for inter-firm collaboration change over time, and motives are linked to the phase of the maritime cycle. Inter-firm collaboration provides competitive advantage benefits to firms and collaboration can protect as well as create jobs and wealth creation in maritime communities.

Originality/value - A novel conceptual contribution is the exploration of links between maritime industrial cyclicality and the partner selection process relating to strategic alliances. This study also adds to debates relating to the profiles of internationalizing smaller firms.

Keywords: strategic alliance, partner selection criteria, maritime industry, Norway, case study

JEL Classification: M10, M13

Suggested Citation

Solesvik, Marina and Westhead, Paul, Partner Selection for Strategic Alliances: Case Study Insights from the Maritime Industry (May 15, 2010). Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 110, No.6, pp. 841-860 (2010), Available at SSRN:

Marina Solesvik (Contact Author)

Stord Haugesund University College ( email )

Skaregaten 103
N-5500, Haugesund, Rogaland N-5414

Paul Westhead

Durham University ( email )

Old Elvet
Mill Hill Lane
Durham, Durham DH1 3HP
United Kingdom

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