New factors are redefining global shipping and seaborne trade flows and patterns. These include digitalisation, e-commerce and the China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative which are increasingly unfolding. This is according to a report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“The value of shipping can no longer be determined by scale alone. The ability of the sector to leverage relevant technological advances to improve processes and operations, cut costs and generate value for the industry and customers, as well as the broader economy and society, is becoming increasingly important,” UNCTAD says in its Review of Maritime Transport for 2018.
Continued growth in seaborne trade
UNCTAD projections are pointing to continued growth in world seaborne trade, which hinges on continued growth in GDP. At the same time, upside and downside risks to the outlook are manifold. These include rising trade tensions on the downside and digitalisation on the upside.
Governments have a role to play by supporting the current positive economic trends and promoting a self-sustaining global economic recovery.
Authorities, maritime transport analysts, and development entities such as UNCTAD need to regularly monitor market concentration trends in liner shipping. Moreover they need to assess potential implications of market power, freight rates, surcharges and other costs to shippers and trade.
Governments, in collaboration with the shipping industry, and the trade and business community need to build digital preparedness and promote greater uptake of technologies. Certainly, this will require, among others, providing an enabling legal and regulatory framework and supporting training and initiatives to build knowledge and upgrade skills.
All stakeholders, including governments, need to work together and support the development of transportation and supply chain infrastructure and services tailored for e-commerce.