Shipping and World Trade

Overview

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.

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.

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

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 (2017)


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