United Nations Report on Maritime Transportation


The most recent annual review (2012) of maritime transport by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) outlines industry trends. Here are some of the report’s findings.

  • Global seaborne trade reached 8.7 billion tonnes in 2011, up 4% over the previous year, mainly fuelled by strong growth in container and dry bulk trades.
  • World container port throughput increased by an estimated 5.9% in 2011 to reach 572.8 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), its highest level ever. Chinese ports accounted for 24.2% of total world container port throughput.
  • But in the previous four years, the capacity of the world fleet expanded faster than seaborne trade, climbing 37% in four years. In January 2012 this represented 1.5 billion deadweight tons (DWT: the maximum weight a vessel can carry). China, Japan and South Korea together built more than 93% of the vessels delivered in 2011.
  • World fleet capacity expanding faster than seaborne trade creates an imbalance between supply and demand. The consequence of supply outstripping demand is lower freight rates, meaning that it costs less to ship goods. In 2011 and early 2012, freight rates were often set at unprofitable levels for shipowners, still according to the UNCTAD study.
  • Moreover, a trend has emerged towards larger ships deployed by a smaller number of companies. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of companies providing services per country went down by 4.5%, while the average size of the largest container ships increased by 11.5%.

To access the Review (pdf)