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World maritime trade per capita amounted to 1.5 tons

Total annual world maritime trade amounted to 11.5 billion tonnes and 1.5 tonnes per capita, reported the European Maritime Safety Agency.

The global shipping industry is critical to international trade as it is a profitable and sustainable means of transporting large volumes of many essential commodities and finishes.

In fact, around 88% of world trade is carried out through maritime transport (up from 85% in 2019).

Why this increase? The Covid-19 pandemic had a greater impact on other modes of transport, including air, truck and rail.

Maritime trade

The European Union is responsible for 20% of world maritime trade and its maritime industries are relatively underrepresented in terms of shipbuilding (around 5% of world production, but focused on the cruise sector), generally aligned in terms of representation of the Flag state (17%) and boat repair (18% of global activity), and well represented in terms of boat ownership (33%, rising to 39% if Norway and the UK are included), marine equipment, classification and financing of vessels.

All of the above also in accordance with the European Maritime Safety Agency.

The impact of the pandemic led global maritime trade to decline 3.6% year-on-year in 2020, a rate similar to the decline in global GDP.

The disruption to the world economy in the wake of the pandemic caused world GDP to fall 3.5% throughout 2020, a rate relatively similar to that of the four quarters after the global financial crisis.

However, there was a notable variation in the rate of decline in commodities transported by sea, and the overall impact on seaborne trade in 2020 may not have been as negative as many had initially feared (for context, the global maritime trade in tonnes decreased by 4.0% in 2009).

Based on data available up to and including December 2020, EU maritime trade is estimated to have decreased more significantly than world trade by 9.3% in 2020, corresponding to a «loss» of 226 million tonnes of trade.

The most significant decrease in trade volumes occurred in imports to the EU from non-EU countries, which fell 12.2% in 2020, followed by intra-community trade (7.1% less during the same period).


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