The growing concentration in maritime transport services raises concern about its possible impact on freight during the contraction and recovery in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighted the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
In 1992, the maritime transport market consisted mainly of 30 companies, representing around 63% of the total fleet.
In 1998, six alliances were formed, representing 50% of the world fleet.
Between 2000 and 2010, the combined fleet capacity of the top 30 shipping companies doubled to 10.81 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
Already in 2018, three of the alliances had a combined participation close to 70% of the global supply (capacity), and in 2020 they have increased their participation to 84.2, according to ECLAC.
The growing concentration in maritime transport has resulted in processes of vertical integration with ports.
For example, according to ECLAC data, at the end of March 2020, the integrated terminals handled 68% of the containers in Buenos Aires and 49% in Brazil.
In the port of Callao (Peru), they represent 41% of the total mobilized and in the Caribbean 35% of the total transshipment.
Globally, maritime container trade has followed a downward trend since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Although it increased in some regions until February, since March it fell in the vast majority of them. In Latin America, the interannual variation in the period January-May 2020 was -6.1%, with marked decreases in April and May.
Interannual variation of international maritime trade by container, January to May 2020 (Percentages)
From ECLAC’s perspective, the pandemic will likely reinforce two interrelated trends that were already outlined previously.
The first is a trend towards a lower level of productive, commercial and technological interdependence between the main world economies, in particular between the United States and Europe, on the one hand, and China, on the other.
The second is a trend towards world trade with a lower level of openness, more permeated by geopolitical and national security considerations, with a greater presence of conflicts and with a weakened multilateral institutional framework.
The net result would not be a reversal of globalization, but a more regionalized world economy, organized around three major productive poles: North America, Europe, and East and Southeast Asia.