Shipping and World Trade


Around 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. 

Without shipping the import and export of goods on the scale necessary for the modern world would not be possible.

Seaborne trade continues to expand, bringing benefits for consumers across the world through competitive freight costs. Thanks to the growing efficiency of shipping as a mode of transport and increased economic liberalisation, the prospects for the industry's further growth continue to be strong.

There are over 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

Different types of ship in the world merchant fleet

Global supply and demand for seafarers

World seaborne trade

Major shipping flags

Largest beneficial ownership countries

Twenty largest containership operators

Predicted Increases in World Seaborne Trade, GDP and Population

UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport (2016)

  • International Chamber of Shipping
  • 38 St Mary Axe, London
  • EC3A 8BH