Geneva - World maritime trade lost momentum in 2018 as heightened uncertainty, escalating tariff tensions between the US and China and mounting concerns over other trade policy and political crosscurrents, notably a no-deal Brexit, sent waves through global markets, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Review of Maritime Transport 2019.
Volumes in the sector grew by only 2.7% last year, below the historical averages of 3% and 4.1% recorded in 2017, according to the report. “The dip in maritime trade growth is a result of several trends including a weakening multilateral trading system and growing protectionism,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
“It is a warning that national policies can have a negative impact on the maritime trade and development aspirations of all,” he added.Buffeted by a global economic slowdown, in 2018, seaborne trade also navigated other difficult headwinds such as geopolitical tensions, while preparing for an expected surge in ship fuel costs arising from a new regulation requiring ships to cut their sulphur dioxide emissions.
UNCTAD expects international maritime trade to expand at an average annual growth rate of 3.4% over the 2019–2024 period, driven in particular by growth in containerized, dry bulk and gas cargoes. However, uncertainty remains an overriding theme in the current maritime transport environment, with risks tilted to the downside.