Review of Maritime Transport 2023: Facts and Figures on Asia

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Review of Maritime Transport 2023: Facts and Figures on Asia

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 Asia:

Maritime trade

  • Supply chain reconfiguration trends have been unfolding around the world for the past decade – and the latest statistics show that China and several other Asian countries are seeing the most visible changes in maritime trade patterns as a result.
  • Volumes moved on intraregional routes took a 27.6% share of global trade in 2022, and much of this was due to dynamic intra-Asian container shipping activity and the manufacturing supply chain specific to East Asian countries.
  • Intra-Asia routes serving intraregional supply chain recorded the highest growth rates from 2021 to 2022 – reflecting global manufacturing patterns, where China serves as the global manufacturing centre, supported by neighbouring East Asian countries supplying parts and components.
  • A strategy adopted by some companies for diversifying supply sources and reducing overdependence on China is the “China Plus One” strategy, where companies expand outside China while still maintaining a presence there. For example, Apple, Samsung, Sony and Adidas have moved some manufacturing activities from China to South-East Asia due to labour costs and risk management considerations.
  • The share of United States container imports from Viet Nam increased from 4% in 2017 to 8% in 2022, while India’s share moved up from 3% to 5%. China’s share dropped from 40% in 2017 to 31% in 2022.
  • Global growth projections are at 3.2% for 2023 and 2.9% for 2024. Asia, particularly India, South Asia and Central Asia are projected to record the highest growth.
  • In 2022, the transpacific route – trade between East Asia (mostly China) and the United States – continued to dominate global containerized trade flows but overall volumes on this route fell by 6.5%, from 30 million 20-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) in 2021 to 28 million TEUs in 2022. Volumes on the Asia-Europe route fell by 4.9%.
  • Dry bulk shipments declined in 2022 due to disrupted Ukraine exports, high energy prices and trends in the Chinese economy, including the sharp decline in the Chinese real estate sector. Demand for major dry bulks improved in 2023, driven by subsequent economic recovery in China.
  • In 2023, following policy reforms aimed at securing coal supply to cope with El Nino impacts, coal imports to China increased significantly, particularly from the Russian Federation.

Shipping fleet

  • At the start of 2023, 18 of the 35 major ship-owning companies were in Asia.
  • China is the second-largest ship-owning country after Greece, followed by Japan (third), Singapore (fourth), Hong Kong, China (fifth), the Republic of Korea (sixth) and Taiwan Province of China (eighth).
  • When measured by value, ship owners in China have an 11.04% share of the world fleet, second to Greece with 11.8%. Japanese ship owners hold a 10.73% share.
  • Hong Kong, China is the world’s fourth-largest flag state of registration in terms of dead weight tonnage, with 200.07 million dead weight tons in its fleet – an 8.8% share of the world fleet. This represented a 3.7% fall in dead weight tons between 2022 and 2023.
  • In terms of vessel numbers, Hong Kong, China has a 2.4% share of the world fleet with a total 2,537 vessels flying its flag. Measured by value, vessels flying the Hong Kong, China flag represent a 6.27% share in the world fleet, putting the flag in sixth place by value of vessels.
  • Singapore takes fifth place in the leading flags of registration, followed by China in sixth place and Japan in tenth place. Other flags in the top 35 include Indonesia (12), the Republic of Korea (18), India (19), Viet Nam (22), Malaysia (25) and Taiwan Province of China (33).
  • The Chinese flag registered the second-fastest growth (5.4%) in 2022.
  • The three leading shipbuilding countries – China, the Republic of Korea and Japan –accounted for 93% of newbuilding tonnage delivered in 2022, with China taking a 47% share.
  • In 2022, ships flying the Hong Kong, China flag were the fourth-largest group of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters from shipping globally.
  • Vessels controlled by owners in China, Japan and Greece account for the largest share of CO2 emissions.

Maritime transport performance

  • In the second quarter 2023, the most connected economies, as measured by the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) were in Asia. China took top spot, followed by the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. These countries recorded a year-on-year increase in connectivity of between 3% and 5% and reached record highs in their index values.
  • Asian countries continue to lead in cargo handling performance. According to the Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), jointly produced by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence, 18 of the top 25 ports globally are in Asia, including 11 in Eastern Asia and four in Western Asia.
  • The Port of Yangshan, China is ranked number one in the CPPI 2022, rising from number four in 2021. Yangshan has invested in trans-shipment operations, developed automation and enhanced the interoperability of its systems among border agencies and logistics operators. This investment illustrates the positive relationships between the business environment, port facilities and port performance, ultimately leading to greater efficiency and shorter port calls.
  • The Port of Tajung Pelepas, Malaysia rose by 12 places to take the sixth position in the CPPI 2022. The ports of Ningbo, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, China are also in the top 10 ports under the CPPI 2022.
  • When measuring port performance in minutes per container move at the country level, Hong Kong, China was the fastest across five categories of call sizes. Japan and Viet Nam each recorded the fastest container handling speeds in three categories.
  • Contract rates covering Asia to South America surged by 386% in 2022 compared with 2019. Asia to Africa rates grew by 160%, and rates from Africa to Asia were up by 248%.



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.