UNCTAD – Maritime transport review 2023 - Towards a Green and just transition


(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The Review of Maritime Transport is a recurrent publication prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat since 1968 with the aim of fostering the transparency of maritime markets and analysing relevant developments. This edition of the Review covers data and events from January 2021 until June 2022.

Shipping continues to navigate COVID-19 post-pandemic trends, the legacies of the 2021–2022 crunch in global supply chains, a softening in the container shipping market and shifts in shipping and trading patterns arising from the war in Ukraine.

Global shipping continues to confront multiple challenges, including heightened trade policy and geopolitical tensions and is dealing with changes in globalization patterns. Additionally, shipping must transition to a more sustainable future, decarbonize and embrace digitalization. Being at the intersection of these forces will influence how the sector adapts to the evolving operational and regulatory landscape while continuing to effectively service global trade.

Maritime trade volume contracted marginally by 0.4 percent in 2022, but UNCTAD projects it will grow by 2.4 percent in 2023. Indeed, the industry remains resilient and UNCTAD expects continued but moderated growth in maritime trade volume (table 1) for the medium term (2024–2028). Global shipping is also facing concurrent forces that make balancing supply and demand a challenging task for carriers. During 2022, containerized trade, measured in metric tons, declined by 3.7 percent.

UNCTAD projects it will increase by 1.2 percent in 2023 and expand by over 3 percent during the 2024–2028 period, although this rate is below the long-term growth of about 7 percent over the previous three decades. On the supply side, container shipping may have entered an overcapacity phase, meaning that carriers will aim at managing capacity using tools such as slippage, idling of vessels or demolition.

Undoubtedly, the key challenge for the sector is that the maritime industry must embark on a transformative journey towards decarbonization while sustaining economic growth. Balancing environmental sustainability, regulatory compliance and economic demands is vital for a prosperous, equitable and resilient maritime transport future.

Despite uncertainties surrounding future decarbonization measures, including their impact on logistics costs and trade, the sector should remain committed to fleet modernization, renewal of ageing vessel capacity and adopting low-carbon pathways. Amidst regulatory, commercial and sustainability pressures, meeting carbon emission targets is a formidable yet positive challenge. Developing regions, including small island developing States (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs), may face higher impacts due to a limited capacity to mitigate higher logistics costs.

Starting in early 2022, seaborne trade, in particular dry bulk and tanker shipments, has been impacted by the war in Ukraine. The war led to changes in shipping patterns and increased the distances traveled for commodities, especially oil and grain. Growth in ton-miles exceeds growth in tons in 2022, 2023 and 2024 projections.

For more in-depth details, click below to download the full UNCTAD 2023 report:


Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)







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