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Ships today are travelling 17.4% slower than before Lehman Brothers collapsed

Cargoes are taking ever longer to reach their destinations in the continued fallout shipping has felt from the global financial crisis 12 years ago.

Taking 2008 as its starting point, Clarkson Research Services has shown how shipping has slowed down further and further since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Ships today travel 17.4% slower than they did back in 2008 (see chart below). The fall in certain sectors is ever larger such as containerships where average speeds have fallen by 25% over the last 12 years.

The 2008 starting date for the data is also important as that is the base year for the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 2050. Data from Clarkson last month shows shipping has slashed its CO2 emissions by 10.7% over the last 10 years.

During the first half of this year, the deepsea cargo fleet’s average speed fell by 1.4% compared to full year 2019. The notable exception so far this year has been in the buoyant crude tanker sector where average speeds increased 0.9% in the first six months of the year.

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.


  1. Some people have the stupid idea that 2008 capitalism will resurrect if they reduce speed.

    1. Bad idea to also-consider resurrecting high speed LASH-type low Barge Carrying Vessels to compete with container ports?

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