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UNCTAD gives its take on shipping in the post-pandemic era

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has issued its Review of Maritime Transport 2020 report.

Contained in the 146-page publication, UNCTAD is projecting the volume of international maritime trade will fall by 4.1% in 2020, recovering next year to expand by 4.8% in 2021.

Among many topics covered, the UNCTAD report looks at global trade in the post-pandemic era.

The UN body is predicting the regionalisation of trade will likely accelerate, with the post-pandemic world featuring an element of shortened supply chains whether near shoring or reshoring as well as redundancy via excess stocks and inventory.

The established just-in-time supply chain model will be reassessed to include considerations such as resilience and robustness

“Investing in warehousing and storage will become more important to ensure sufficient safety stocks and inventories,” UNCTAD predicts, adding: “The established just-in-time supply chain model will be reassessed to include considerations such as resilience and robustness. Diversification in sourcing, routing and distribution channels will grow in importance.”

Moving away from single country-centric location sourcing to multiple location sourcing that is not only focused on cutting costs and delays but also on risk management and resilience will evolve further, UNCTAD predicted, while admitting that China will continue to dominate the global manufacturing scene.

In 2020, an estimated 20% of global trade in manufacturing intermediate products originated in China, up from 4% in 2002, according to UNCTAD data. The volume of intra-Asia containerised trade and its rapid growth over recent years reflect this trend.

Among other interesting takeaways from the report, UNCTAD is projecting the 24,000 teu boxship is as large as container shipping will see.

“Experience from other ship types and limitations affecting access channels, port infrastructure and shipyards, suggest that container ship sizes have probably reached a peak,” UNCTAD 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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