The maritime transport market

Shipping market

Demand for shipping and port services is derived from the demand for the products being shipped and it is therefore important to examine international trade and patterns in order to assess those demand levels.  In this respect the emerging markets of China and India have made a significant impact on demand side of the industry.  Supply in terms of the world fleet has responded to growth in trade over a long period with record orders for new vessels.  In addition, ports have expanded rapidly to accommodate higher trading volumes, particularly in the container sector.  However, the collapse in demand as a result of the global financial crisis has lead to a dramatic change in fortunes. Freight rates have collapsed in all sectors and are unlikely to begin their upward cycle until the supply and demand gap is closed.  Port volumes are down and the sector is struggling to maintain levels of investment.
The shipping markets are highly complex, influenced by many economic and political factors, which create uncertainty and volatility. Against this background, maritime markets are becoming increasingly competitive as we strive to find cheaper transport solutions.
Looking ahead, two main issues will play an important role in the maritime markets, namely trade and the environmental agenda. .  As far as trade is concerned, there is still enormous potential for growth in countries such as  Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, the Indian sub-continent, countries of Central Asia, Russia and the East European states,  Africa; and of course South America. Despite the current massive overcapacity and faltering demand,  the international efforts to stimulate growth and the continued effect of  China / India etc  (balanced by the ongoing cancellations and  slowing new-build deliveries down) are likely to help avoid structural overcapacity and a prolonged depression in the shipping market.  At the same time the industry faces a huge environmental challenge as it tries to tackle the longer term problem of emissions.  Regulation is very much on the agenda providing both a threat in terms of additional operational costs and an opportunity through greater technical innovation.