In this paper we argue that much of the literature on port governance takes the embeddedness of the port authority in the public sector as a given, whereas we argue that port development is intrinsically commercial and it is thus appropriate to regard a port authority as a port development company. In line with this, we provide a critique of the term ‘port authority’. Next, we describe the cases of the Dutch seaports as an illustration of the transition away from ‘authority’ and towards a model with state owned port development companies (PDCs). The following topics are addressed: the changing institutional position of the port development companies, the legal status of the PDCs, the financial performance of the Dutch PDCs and the commercial activities of the PDCs. Finally, we address the changing approach to small scale port development in the Netherlands.