Maritime transport is a key facilitator of global trade. Competitiveness in world trade depends, among other factors, on a country’s level of connectivity and its integration in the global container liner service network. Recent investigations show that spatial frictions are considerably influenced by the level of connectivity rather than the pure notion of distance. Technological advances, i.e. increases in ship size, demand growth in trade volumes and concentration in the liner shipping industry, are constant drivers of change in the structure of liner services.What has been the effect of market concentration in the liner shipping industry on emerging markets in terms of service levels and competition? Based on the analyses of the evolution of liner shipping services in the period from 2000 to 2009, this research addresses the expansion of hierarchical liner service network structures and market concentration, focussing on South America as an example of emerging markets. The results identify the effect of economic downturns on liner shipping networks in network peripheral markets and the potentially detrimental effects on the competitiveness of countries and regions beyond the general challenges that come from a less favourable economic climate.