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The UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport, produced by the Division on Technology and Logistics, is the acknowledged United Nations source of statistics and analysis on seaborne trade, the world fleet, freight rates, port traffic, and the latest trends in the legal and regulatory environment for international maritime transport. As with all previous issues published since 1968, the Review of Maritime Transport 2013 contains a wealth of analysis and unique data.
In today's interdependent and globalized world, efficient and cost-effective transportation systems that link global supply chains are the engine fuelling economic development and prosperity. With 80 per cent of global merchandise trade by volume carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide, the strategic economic importance of maritime transport as a trade enabler cannot be overemphasized. The trade competitiveness of all countries - developed and developing alike, and including landlocked countries - depends heavily on effective access to international shipping services and port networks.
The 2013 edition of the Review of Maritime Transport estimates global seaborne trade to have increased by 4.3 per cent, with the total reaching over 9 billion tons in 2012 for the first time ever. Driven in particular by growing domestic demand in China and increased intra-Asian and South-South trade, seaborne trade nevertheless remains subject to persistent downside risks facing the world economy and trade. Freight rates have remained low and volatile in the various market segments (container, liquid and dry bulk).
Maritime transport is facing a new and complex environment that involves both challenges and opportunities. Of all the prevailing challenges, however, the interconnected issues of energy security and costs, climate change, and environmental sustainability are perhaps the most unsettling. Climate change in particular continues to rank high on the international policy agenda, including that of shipping and port businesses. Turning to the opportunities, these include - to name but a few - deeper regional integration and South-South cooperation; growing diversification of sources of supply; and access to new markets, facilitated by cooperation agreements and by improved transport networks (e.g. the Panama Canal expansion).
In view of recent research that suggests that containerization has been a stronger driver of globalization than trade liberalization has, the Review discusses global developments in container trade flows and containership deployment. It also presents trends over 10 years in liner shipping connectivity in developing regions, building upon UNCTAD's Liner Shipping Connectivity Index which was published in 2013 for the tenth year.
The special chapter on "Landlocked countries and maritime transport" provides an overview of recent progress made in understanding impediments to accessing sea-shipping services, for the trade of goods between landlocked territories and overseas markets.
The Review proposes a new paradigm for transit based on a conveyor-belt concept, which aims at achieving a continuous supply of transit transport services, supported by institutional frameworks and infrastructure.
The argument proposed here is that a regular, reliable and secure transit system is the simple, straightforward goal to pursue in order to guarantee access for landlocked developing countries to global shipping networks on the basis of non-penalizing conditions. Given the review of the Almaty Programme of Action that is to take place in 2014, this proposal could be part of the actions within a new agenda for landlocked and transit developing countries.