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Clarksons predicts seaborne trade volumes will surpass 2019 levels this year

While conceding that major uncertainties remain, Clarkson Research Services is projecting global seaborne trade estimates for full year 2021 will not just be back at 2019 levels, but are on course to surpass them.

Clarksons is projecting a 4.2% growth this year whereby seaborne trade volumes will hit 12bn tonnes, 0.5% above 2019 levels.

Clarksons estimated in its most recent weekly report that global seaborne trade fell by -3.6% in 2020 on a full year basis to 11.5bn tonnes.

The first weeks of 2021 have seen most non-tanker shipping segments reporting high utilisation levels and strong rates.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that the global economy will grow by 5.5% this year, which – following a 3.5% drop last year – will leave the 2021 economy 1.8% bigger than 2019’s. Splitting emerging and developed economies shows that only the former will be back at 2019 levels this year, as the IMF expects them to grow by 6.3%, following a 2.4% decline in 2020. Developed economies, on the other hand, are forecast to grow by 4.3%, a lower rate than the 4.9% drop in 2020.

A BIMCO report from the end of last month suggested the 2021 recovery would not bring good news for everyone, with the exact pace of the recovery to be determined by developments of the pandemic and changes to travel restrictions and other containment measures.

“As the global economy moves towards its next normal, some of the positives that have come out of the pandemic year for shipping, including the higher trade-to-GDP multiplier, will fade away as spending on goods falls and consumers start spending more on services and travel. Furthermore, there will be a limit to government stimulus packages, which will inevitably slow the pace of recovery,” BIMCO suggested last month.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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