More than 80 per cent of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and an even higher percentage of developing-country trade is carried in ships.
The Review of Maritime Transport, an annual publication prepared by the Division on Technology and Logistics of the UNCTAD secretariat, is an important source of information on this vital sector. It closely monitors developments affecting world seaborne trade, freight rates, ports, surface transport and logistics services, as well as trends in ship ownership and control and fleet age, tonnage supply and productivity.
The Review contains a chapter on legal and regulatory developments and each year includes a special chapter analysing a selected topic in depth. In 2011, the focus is on the participation of developing countries in different maritime businesses.
Key developments reported in this year´s Review include the following:
- After contracting in 2009, international shipping experienced an upswing in demand in 2010, and recorded a positive turnaround in volumes, especially in the dry bulk and container trade segments. Total seaborne trade reached an estimated 8.4 billion tons in 2010.
- The year 2010 saw record deliveries of new tonnage, 28 per cent higher than in 2009, resulting in an 8.6 per cent growth in the world merchant fleet. The fleet reached almost 1.4 billion deadweight tons (dwt) in January 2011, an increase of 120 million dwt over 2010. New deliveries stood at 150 million dwt, against demolitions and other withdrawals from the market of approximately 30 million dwt.
- The price of newbuildings was lower for all vessels types in 2010, reflecting market views that in the short term, the capacity of the world fleet is sufficient to meet world trade.
- World container port throughput increased by an estimated 13.3 per cent to 531 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, in 2010, after stumbling briefly in 2009. The UNCTAD Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) reveals that China maintains its lead as the single most connected country. It is followed by Hong Kong (China), Singapore and Germany. In 2011, 91 countries increased their LSCI ranking over 2010, 6 saw no change, and 65 recorded a decrease.
- In 2010, the rail freight sector grew by 7.2 per cent to reach 9,843 billion freight ton kilometres (FTKs) The road freight sector grew by 7.8 per cent in 2010 over the previous year, with volumes reaching 9,721 billion FTKs.
Important legal and regulatory developments included the entry into force on 14 September 2011 of the International Convention on Arrest of Ships, which had been adopted at a joint United Nations-International Maritime Organization (IMO) diplomatic conference held in 1999 under the auspices of UNCTAD. Moreover, during 2010 and the first half of 2011, important discussions continued at IMO regarding the scope and content of a possible international regime to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
Developing countries are expanding their participation in a range of different maritime businesses. They already hold strong positions in ship scrapping, ship registration and the supply of seafarers, and they have growing market shares in more capital-intensive or technologically advanced maritime sectors such as ship construction and shipowning. China and the Republic of Korea between them built 72.4 per cent of world ship capacity (dwt) in 2010, and 9 of the 20 largest countries in shipowning in January 2011 are developing countries.