Structural changes in trade and logistics have forced the European seaport system to operate in an efficiency-oriented market environment. Private investors gradually increase their presence in the port industry, while the public sector is redefining its role through privatisation and liberalisation schemes. This paper deals with current port reform issues in Europe and their impact on efficiency in the port industry. Issues discussed in this paper include the contestability of private and public port operations and the desirability of intra-port monopolies, the danger for politicisation of technocratic port management, the existence of public goods in seaports and the need for public port investments. As such, this contribution adds to the conceptual debate on public sector involvement in an efficiency-oriented port industry.