Review of Maritime Transport 2023: Facts and Figures on Africa

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Review of Maritime Transport 2023: Facts and Figures on Africa

Geneva, Switzerland, 27 September 2023

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) today published its Review of Maritime Transport 2023, which highlights the following facts and figures on Africa:

Maritime trade patterns

  • The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement is expected to increase intra-African freight by 28% and demand for maritime freight by 62%.
  • A significant increase in traffic flows is expected across all transport modes throughout Africa in the coming years. Enormous investment in transport equipment and infrastructure will be required, including 100 more vessels, if the AfCFTA is fully implemented. The investments expected due to the AfCFTA also provide an avenue for a green economic recovery in Africa.
  • Grain imports into Africa from Ukraine, crucial to the food security of many African economies, declined by 14.9% in 2022, forcing these economies to adapt their trading patterns. From 2018 to 2020, 32% of total African wheat imports came from the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
  • Egypt coped with an 81% fall in wheat imports from Ukraine during the first eight months of the war by replacing the source of imports with the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United States.
  • Ethiopia replaced the loss of wheat supply from the Russian Federation and Ukraine with shipments from the United States and Argentina.
  • The war in Ukraine led European countries to import more gas from other suppliers – including Algeria – to compensate for the loss of shipments from the Russian Federation.
  • South-South trade such as from Africa to Latin America and the Caribbean contributed 12.5% to global containerized trade in 2022.

Shipping fleet

  • In 2022, Liberia surpassed Panama as the world’s largest flag state of registration in terms of dead weight tonnage, with 378.3 million dead weight tons in its fleet. Liberia recorded a 12.7% growth in ship tonnage between 2022 and 2023.
  • Liberia takes second place after the Panama ship registry in terms of ship numbers, with 4,821 vessels in the Liberia-flagged fleet. The average vessel size flagged in Liberia is 78,479 dead weight tons.
  • When measured by value, Liberia has the second-largest share of vessels registered, at 11.78% compared with Panama’s 12.86%.
  • Nigeria is the largest ship-owning country in Africa. In terms of the world fleet, it is at number 33 on the list, with 291 vessels totaling 7.94 million dead weight tons. In terms of vessel value, Nigerian-owned vessels were in 30th place with a 0.56% share of the world fleet value.
  • In 2022, ships flying the flags of Liberia, Panama and the Marshall Islands (the world’s three leading flags by tonnage and number of vessels), collectively accounted for more than one third of shipping’s global carbon emissions. Liberia-flagged vessels are responsible for the highest volume of carbon dioxide emissions from ships, when purely measured by main flags of registration.

Maritime transport performance

  • The Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI), measuring the connectivity of economies, showed that average LSCI for Africa increased in 2022 but remained below pre-pandemic values.
  • There is ongoing investment in Africa by global port and terminal operators, including by MSC and Hapag-Lloyd.
  • Africa was the only region in the world to show an increase in port calls by dry bulk carriers – up 2.5% in 2022. The region also recorded a more than 5% increase in port calls by liquid bulk carriers.
  • The World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) measures a port’s capacity to handle containers for export, import and trans-shipment. In the Top 25 ports under the CPPI 2022, Tanger-Med Port in Morocco is ranked fifth, up one place from 2021. Tanger Med port strengthened its position as a major Mediterranean hub, handling 7.5 million containers in 2022 – up 6% from 2021. An estimated 35% of African trade with the rest of the world is passing through Tanger Med, which is connected to about 40 African ports.
  • Port Said, Egypt is ranked at number 11 and Djibouti is ranked 25.
  • Dar es Salaam was the port which most reduced average arrival times in 2022. The government of Tanzania invested heavily in the Dar es Salaam port facilities – improving clearance procedures with the goal of making the port the entry point of the Central Corridor and the route to Southern Africa. The port has seen an LSCI increase of 50% since 2006.
  • When measuring tanker cargo and vessel handling performance for the top 30 countries in terms of ship arrivals, the fastest loading times are recorded for Angola, at 98 tons per minute.
  • Thanks to policy reforms within the East African Community (EAC), the time to move cargo from Mombasa to Kampala has been cut from 18 to three days; the cost of transport from Mombasa to Nairobi has been reduced by 56%.
  • Contract rates covering Africa to Asia increased by 248% in 2022, compared with 2021, while rates from Asia to Africa increased by 160%. These increases were primarily influenced by imbalances in supply and demand.

Trade facilitation

  • Interconnectivity between national customs management systems is established in West Africa thanks to the combination of mutually recognized regional/international transit regimes with transit guarantee, and digital solutions such as the UNCTAD SIGMAT solutions.
  • The EAC, with two main corridors linking landlocked developing countries to the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, provides a good example of transit regimes being combined with other harmonized trade and transport regimes accepted by customs and other border agencies that ensure efficient transit trade from seaports to landlocked/inland destinations.




UNCTAD is the UN trade and development body. It supports developing countries to access the benefits of a globalized economy more fairly and effectively and equips them to deal with the potential drawbacks of greater economic integration.

It provides analysis, facilitates consensus-building and offers technical assistance to help developing countries use trade, investment, finance and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.