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Global seaborne trade volumes forecast to grow 3.4% this year

Global seaborne trade volumes are back to pre-Covid levels and are on track to grow 3.4% this year, according to new data and forecasts from Clarkson Research Services.

The amount of goods shipped by sea last year rebounded by 3.4% in both tonnes and tonne-mile terms, with volumes totalling 12bn tonnes, back to 2019 levels and regaining the 400m tonnes of seaborne trade that was “lost” in 2020 amid impacts from the pandemic, the latest Clarksons weekly report stated.

Looking ahead, the UK broker’s latest forecast is for seaborne trade to grow by a further 3.4% in 2022 (3.9% in tonne-miles), albeit trends across commodities will vary.

Not every commodity has recovered as the chart from Clarksons below highlights. Among the key commodities still a long way from getting back to pre-pandemic levels is crude oil. According to Poten & Partner tonne-mile demand was down another 5.3% last year compared to 2020, on top of the 5.5% decline in the previous year.

Helping explain why the tanker market was in the doldrums in 2021, Poten in its latest weekly report highlighted the decline in tonne-mile demand combined with an expanding fleet.

“A reversal of these trends, preferably both at the same time, will be needed to lift the fortunes of the owners of crude oil tankers,” Poten suggested.

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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