Key Facts

Shipping and World Trade

The international shipping industry is responsible for the carriage of around 90% of world trade.

Shipping is the life blood of the global economy. Without shipping, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials, and the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible.

Ships are technically sophisticated, high value assets (larger hi-tech vessels can cost over US $200 million to build), and the operation of merchant ships generates an estimated annual income of over half a trillion US Dollars in freight rates.

More information on shipping and world trade



Profile of the World Fleet

There are around 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations, and manned by over a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.

More information on the world merchant fleet



Safety and Regulation

Shipping is the safest and most environmentally benign form of commercial transport. Perhaps uniquely amongst industries involving physical risk, commitment to safety has long pervaded virtually all deep sea shipping operations. Shipping was amongst the very first industries to adopt widely implemented international safety standards.

Because of its inherently international nature, the safety of shipping is regulated by various United Nations agencies. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) in particular has developed a comprehensive framework of global maritime safety regulations, which are enforced on a worldwide basis.

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Environmental Performance

Shipping is the least environmentally damaging form of commercial transport and, compared with land based industry, is a comparatively minor contributor to marine pollution from human activities.

There has been a substantial reduction in marine pollution over the last 15 years, especially with regard to the amount of oil spilled into the sea, despite a massive increase in world sea borne trade.

More information on environmental performance

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