Chapter V Trends In International Seaborne Trade Economics Essay

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Following the global financial crisis of late 2008, the year 2009 recorded the first and deepest drop in global output since the 1930s, with world gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 1.9 per cent. The downturn was broad-based, with countries experiencing an exceptionally synchronized reversal in the trend of GDP growth. Developed economies and countries with economies in transition recorded the largest contractions, of 3.4 per cent and 6.3 per cent respectively. Developing economies have been affected too, with growth in these economies decelerating to 2.4 per cent - a much slower rate compared to 2007 and 2008. [cii] 

2. Global GDP is forecast to expand by 3.5 per cent in 2010, with the recovery by country varying in speed, and with the major drag on global growth coming from developed economies and related concerns about fiscal sustainability and large public debt. Industrial production - also a leading indicator of demand for maritime transport services - has recovered from the fall in 2009 which dampened demand for raw materials and energy, both mainstays of demand for shipping services. In sum, a global recovery is under way. The prospects for 2010 are improving. Assuming no new upheavals in the global economy, and the confirmation of the nascent global recovery, the World Trade Organization (WTO) expects world export volumes to rebound and grow at 9.5 per cent in 2010. [ciii] 


3. General Trends in Seaborne Trade. Estimates based on preliminary data for 2009 indicate that world seaborne trade volumes fell by 4.5 per cent, suggesting that 2008 marked the end of the "super cycle". In 2009, total goods loaded amounted to 7.8 billion tons, down from 8.2 billion tons recorded in 2008. However, in comparison ten years back in 1999, the seaborne trade accounted for 5.23 billion tons of goods. This amounts to an impressive increase of 55% in the period 1999-2008 and 49% in the period 1999-2009. Developing countries continued to account for the largest share of global seaborne trade (61.2 per cent of all goods loaded and 55.0 per cent of all goods unloaded), reflecting their growing resilience to economic setbacks and an increasingly leading role in driving global trade. Developed economies' shares of global goods loaded and unloaded were 32.4 per cent and 44.3 per cent respectively. Transition economies accounted for 6.4 per cent of goods loaded, and 0.8 per cent of goods unloaded. Taken on a regional basis, Asia continues to dominate, with a share of 41 per cent of total goods loaded, followed in decreasing order by the Americas, Europe, Oceania and Africa. [civ] 

4. Seaborne trade by cargo type. [cv] 

(a) Crude Oil, Petroleum Products and Gas. In 1999 the total tanker cargoes loaded amounted to 2159 million tons. However, the same amounted to 2.65 billion tons in 2009 , down from 2.73 billion tons loaded in 2008.

(b) Dry Cargo Shipments. In 1999, overall dry cargo shipments grew at a rate of 3.0 per cent, reaching approximately 2,970 million tons. In 2009, dry cargo volumes, including dry bulks, container cargo and other dry cargoes, recorded their first drop since 1983 (by 5.2 per cent) and stood at about 5.2 billion tons. The share of dry cargo in the total volume of goods loaded has been growing over the years, and continues to account for the lion's share of the total (66.2 per cent).

(c) Liner shipments of containerized cargo. Total world liner shipments of containerized cargo in 1999 are expected to reach approximately 50 million TEUs. The year 2009 proved to be the most challenging and dramatic year in the history of container shipping. After having grown at an impressive average annual rate of around 10.0 per cent over the last two decades, by far surpassing the growth in other seaborne trade segments (see fig. 1.5), container trade recorded its first absolute contraction ever, since containerization began. In 2009, container trade volumes fell sharply, by 9.0 per cent, with the overall volume totalling 124 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Of the remaining 2.22 billion tons of other dry cargo (i.e. total dry cargo excluding major bulks and minor bulks), some 1.19 billion tons are estimated to be carried in containers.34 Reflecting the historical dip, the share of containerized trade in the world's total dry cargo, which increased from 5.1 per cent in 1980 to 25.4 per cent in 2008, fell to about 24.3 per cent in 2009.

Developments in international seaborne trade

5. The year 2009 witnessed the worst global recession in over seven decades and the sharpest decline in the volume of global merchandise trade. In tandem with the collapse in economic growth and trade, international seaborne trade volumes contracted by 4.5 per cent in 2009. While no shipping segment was spared, minor dry bulks and containerized trades suffered the most severe contractions. This reflected the weak consumer confidence which depressed the retail sector, and the low level of capital investment, as well as a slowdown in the real estate and housing sectors, especially in advanced economies. In contrast, iron ore and coal trade volumes held strong on the back of China's robust import demand, driven, in particular, by China's large stimulus package.

6. By early 2010, a global recovery led by fast-growing developing economies was under way, although it was uneven and fragile. The sustainability of the recovery is challenged, among other things, by the fragile conditions in most advanced economies and the risk of a premature winding-up of the stimulus packages. From the shipping perspective, uncertain demand outlook is only part of the picture. Prospects for shipping remain difficult and uncertain, due in particular to the significant size of the ship supply capacity and the impact of the demand/supply mismatch on shipping markets. An added challenge relates to the evolving global regulatory framework, driven by emerging global challenges including energy security, a potential seafaring crisis, and supply chain security, as well as environmental sustainability and, more specifically, the climate change challenge and the related mitigation and adaptation imperatives. Assuming the recovery takes holds and there are no new upheavals on the global scene, the shipping industry and seaborne trade are expected to recover in 2010, although with more of the ground lost in 2009 likely to be recovered in 2011 and beyond. [cvi]