Since the downturn of 2009, when it slumped by 4%, world seaborne trade has grown by 38%, adding an extra 3.2 billion tonnes, but has the extra ‘weight’ been put on?
The wide spectrum of seaborne trade is well known, with a range of cargo types contributing to a projected 11.5 billion tonnes this year. Crude oil and oil products account for 27% of the total, dry bulk for 44% and containers for 16%.
Clarksons Research said that changes to the cargo shares over time were gradual, and by contrasting the share of the growth in tonnes since 2009 with the actual share of trade this year, there is quite a difference.
Iron ore backed by continued Chinese demand, has accounted for 18% of the growth in seaborne trade since 2009, a positive difference of 5% against its 13% share of trade. Container trade in tonnes has accounted for 21% of the growth in the period, with a differential of 6%. Meanwhile combined crude oil and oil products trade has accounted for just 14% of the growth since 2009, a negative difference of 13% compared to its share of trade this year.
A second set of interesting comparisons take distance into account. A comparison of the importance of the different cargoes in both tonnes and also in tonne-miles highlights a couple of instructive patterns. Dry bulk trade is estimated to account for 49% of the total tonne-miles this year compared to 44% of the tonnes. Oil products, with a greater prevalence of intra-regional trade components, provides 9% of the trade in tonnes but just 5% in tonne-miles.
This leads to a comparison of the difference between the ‘weight’ put on in terms of tonnes and tonne-miles since 2009. Grain accounts for 8% of the growth in tonne-miles but just 6% in tonnes, while crude oil which accounted for 6% of growth in tonnes has contributed to 10% of the growth in tonne-miles. In both cases trade flow from the Atlantic to China has had a key impact. Box cargo, meanwhile, put on 21% of the growth in tonnes but only 18% in terms of tonne-miles, Clarkson Research informed.
“Key dry bulk cargoes and containers have added much of the weight, but adding in distance to the vessel demand mix, a top-up is notable in both grain and even crude oil. These ongoing changes just go to show how tricky managing the weight is for shipowners trying to second-guess the seaborne trade scales,” Clarkson Research said.