Maritime trade growth slumps as protectionist policies bite

GlobalData’s ship technology writer Adele Berti says: “Shifting geopolitical balances were standing in the way of good business for the best part of 2019, as the industry held its breath when tensions near the Strait of Hormuz and off the coast of Venezuela reached their peak.”

IMO International Maritime Organization

The resurgence of populism in several countries is spelling trouble for open global trade, a warning sign that is being seen by the shipping industry as a growing threat to business.


“The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) sulphur cap deadline is fast approaching, pressures from the public are pushing for more gender equality within the sector’s workforce, and many stakeholders have been voicing concerns over the implementation of protectionist policies in some of the leading economies of the world, including US and China, the UK and Brazil.


“In May 2019, the ICS joined other organisations to express concern over this increase in protectionist policies. The delegation took to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to present two position papers that outlined their support for free trade and a rules-based multilateral trading system.


“The studies revealed a seven-fold increase in import-restrictive trade measures in 2017 alone, which accounted for some $588.3bn in extra costs to global trade.

“In October 2019 the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) annual Review of Maritime Transport revealed a substantial in dip in maritime trade growth from 4.1% in 2017 to 2.7% in 2018.


“A major victim of this framework was containerised trade growth, which fell from 6% in 2017 to 2.6% in 2018. Growth in port container traffic also saw a slump, as rates increased by 4.7% in 2018, down from 6.7% the previous year.”