Pandemic cuts global maritime trade, recovery expected in 2021

UNCTAD expects maritime trade growth to return to a positive territory and expand by 4.8% in 2021, assuming world economic output recovers.

Global maritime trade will plunge by 4.1% in 2020 due to the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates in its Review of Maritime Transport 2020, released on 12 Nov.

The report warns that new waves of the pandemic that further disrupt supply chains and economies might cause a steeper decline. The pandemic has sent shockwaves through supply chains, shipping networks and ports, leading to plummeting cargo volumes and foiling growth prospects.

According to the report, the short-term outlook for maritime trade is grim. Predicting the pandemic’s longer-term impact as well as the timing and scale of the industry’s recovery is fraught with uncertainty.

UNCTAD expects maritime trade growth to return to a positive territory and expand by 4.8% in 2021, assuming world economic output recovers. But it highlights the need for the maritime transport industry to brace for change and be well prepared for a transformed post-COVID-19 world.

“The global shipping industry will be at the forefront of efforts towards a sustainable recovery, as a vital enabler of the smooth functioning of international supply chains,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “The industry must be a key stakeholder helping adapt ‘just-in-time efficiency’ logistics to ‘just-in-case’ preparedness.” 

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