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06 December 2007

Expanding Asian demand drives growth; world fleet capacity exceeds 1 billion deadweight tons for first time

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The growing world economy, led by mounting demand in Asia, spurred an increase in international trade carried by ship to 7.4 billion tons in 2006 -- a jump of 4.3%, UNCTAD´s Review of Maritime Transport 2007 (RMT) reports.

Overall, the report says, total world merchandise trade, however carried, recorded robust growth of 8% in 2006, double the rate of increase in global gross domestic product (GDP) for the year.

Over one-third of seaborne merchandise was made up of crude oil and petroleum products. Sparked by growth in Asia, in particular in China, total demand for shipping services increased by 5.5% to reach 30,686 billion ton-miles in 2006.

World fleet exceeds 1 billion deadweight tons mark

By the beginning of 2007, the total world merchant fleet had expanded by an impressive 8.6% over 2006, to 1.04 billion deadweight tons (dwt), the Review notes. That is the first time global capacity has exceeded 1 billion dwt. Developing countries controlled about 31% of the world dwt, developed market economies close to 66%, and economies in transition about 3 %. The share of foreign-flagged vessels decreased slightly in 2006, for the first time since 1989. The 10 largest open and international ship registries accounted for 53.7% of total world registries.

According to the latest data for 2005, global freight costs represented 5.9% of the value of world imports, a jump from 5.1% in 2004. Higher transport costs continued to apply in developing countries and in economies in transition. The cost share of transport came to 7.7% of import value for developing nations, and to 7.6% for transition economies.

Cargo channelled through world container ports in 2006 grew by a sharp 13.4% to 440 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs), the Review reports. Developing countries handled 65% of the world total, up from 62.1% in 2005. Sixty-two countries -- 25 of them in Asia -- had container traffic above 100,000 TEUs. Of these, 24 countries recorded double-digit growth. In 2006, seven out of the top 10 world container ports were located in Asia.

International rail freight transport also expanded in 2006, the report notes, with totals in China and India growing by 11% and 8%, respectively. The global road transport market is estimated to have grown by 4.5%, while the global freight forwarding and logistics market grew by 13.5%.

Maritime security

Security continues to be an important issue in the transport of world trade. In a 2007 study, UNCTAD estimated the port-related costs of implementing the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), adopted under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), at between US$1.1 billion and US$2.3 billion initially and US$0.4 billion to US$0.9 billion annually thereafter. The ISPS Code entered into force on 1 July 2004.

For more information, please contact:
UNCTAD Press Office
T: +41 22 917 5828


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