Expert analysis of future global seaborne trade projections is mixed and reflects both pessimistic and optimistic expectations. Although regional trade quantities remain strong, global trends present a more uncertain future. Trends within the shipping and container port industries present their own internal challenges, while budding geopolitical risks threaten the industry externally.
The Case for Optimism
If the optimists are to be believed, then global trade patterns are
The Case for Pessimism
Pessimistic opinions on seaborne trade look to broader global trade patterns. Recent geopolitical risks have interrupted previous global container port traffic growth projections, and many analysts have adjusted projections amidst the China-United States trade dispute and other external global threats. The total quantity of global container port projects has decreased significantly in recent years, and the capacities of many of these ports are also decreasing. The dictates of President Donald Trump of the United States are sure to exaggerate interference with this trend. The current aggressive and protectionist approach by the U.S. administration does not bode well for expectations of future global trade flow quantities and growth. The negative effects of this approach have yet to be broadly realized, but it is not unreasonable to be pessimistic about future trend directions.
Global Container Port and Shipping Trends
Many problems in the industry are fueling troubling trends like overcapacity, increasing bunker fuel costs, low freight rates, and environmental issues. These problems have encouraged the use of larger ships and consolidated shipping lines. This increases stress on ports that cannot accommodate these larger ships. Another trend that these issues have engendered is partnerships between liner companies and container terminals. This may present challenges because of the conflicting incentives of each respective group.
Consolidated shipping lines and larger ships have created new challenges to terminal operators. Larger ships require larger cranes to accommodate the larger scale and dimensions. Ships are also dwelling in ports for
With many new threats being presented, the future of the shipping and container port industry is uncertain. Although broader trends are more difficult to reverse, in the near term the geopolitical risks that threaten these industries will need to be resolved.