Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
London & South East Branch

What will be the pandemic’s maritime legacy?

by Richard Scott FICS, member of London & South East Branch Committee, 4 December 2020
Three weeks ago the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published its annual maritime report. Entitled Review of Maritime Transport 2020, this valuable document can be downloaded free from the organisation’s website. It contains the usual revealing chapters analysing international seaborne trade, port traffic, the global fleet of ships and the supply of shipping services, as well as legal and regulatory aspects.
Much of the statistical data contained is not obtainable free from other sources. It can therefore prove useful to both professionals and Institute students. Seaborne trade volumes in 2019 and comparisons with the previous year are shown, together with comments about how trends have been evolving this year. Fleet capacity in the bulk carrier, tanker, container ship and other segments is detailed. Market developments are discussed as well.   
This year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. A feature of the latest RMT edition is an attempt to identify features of what will be the legacy of the pandemic, affecting the maritime scene, and the disruptive influences unfolding.
Shaping the legacy, the consequences of covid, are many imponderables, some of which may not be clarified for a long time.  Among these, one aspect identified by UNCTAD is an accelerated shift in globalisation patterns and supply chain design, which could affect seaborne trade flows. This shift could involve diversification of sourcing, routing and distribution channels. New consumer spending and behaviour patterns emerging also have implications for sea trade movements.
One especially interesting statistical table included in the RMT shows the ownership of the world fleet of all merchant ships. This tabulation reveals that Greece is still by far the top shipowning country with a 17.8% share of deadweight capacity as at 1 January 2020. Japan remained in the number two slot with 11.4%, but China is catching up and now has 11.2% of the global fleet. The UK is number eleven with 2.6%.