Following a weaker performance in 2015, global seaborne trade growth illustrated its ability to bounce back strongly, and is now expected to reach close to 4% in full year 2017.
According to Clarksons Research, aggregate world seaborne trade is projected to grow by 3.9% in full year 2017, on the back of a 2.8% growth seen last year, which itself was a major bounce back from the sluggish growth of 2.1% registered in 2015.
“If this year does achieve the 3.9% mark, it would constitute the fastest year of seaborne trade growth for 5 years, since the 4.3% growth in 2012, a real bounce back to form,” Clarksons said.
As well as representing a healthy bounce back, the rate of expansion this year holds up well in historical terms. The average since the downturn in 2009, when seaborne trade shrank by 4%, has been 4.2%. Excluding the year of 2010, which was a huge bounce back of 9.3% in its own right, the figure would be a more modest 3.4%. The average in the 2002-08 boom was not too much higher at 4.5%.
This year so far, the average year-on-year growth stood at 5% in Jan-Apr, whilst in May-Aug the rate averaged a slower 3%. However, both compare favourably to full year 2016; in reality the more recent months saw greater volumes in 2016 than the early months of the year, easing the year-on-year growth rate down.
“There have been lots of supportive trends this year: resilient dry bulk imports to China, a return to coal trade growth, robust intra-Asian box volumes, rapid transpacific container trade growth and burgeoning gas volumes. Of course, downward pressures exists too and the future is not without risk,” Clarksons informed.
However, with seaborne trade projected to expand at a multiple of 1.1 times global GDP growth this year, “there’s now a clear signal that some of the distress arising from much slower trade growth as recently as 2015 was actually more likely the passing of the low point in a cycle.”