Global maritime trade volumes are expected to increase by 3.4% this year

Global maritime trade volumes have returned to pre-Covid levels and are on track to grow 3.4% this year, according to new data and forecasts from Clarkson Research Services.

The amount of cargo shipped by sea last year rebounded 3.4% in terms of tonnes and ton-miles, with volumes totaling 12 billion tonnes, returning to 2019 levels and regaining 400 million tonnes of maritime trade that had been “lost” in 2020 amid the impacts of the pandemic, Clarksons’ latest weekly report said.

Looking ahead, the UK broker’s latest forecast calls for further growth in maritime trade of 3.4% in 2022 (3.9% in ton-miles), although trends vary by commodity.

Not all commodities rallied, as shown in the Clarksons chart below. Crude oil is one of the major commodities still far from recovering to pre-pandemic levels. According to Poten & Partner, ton-mile demand fell a further 5.3% last year compared to 2020, on top of the 5.5% drop in the previous year.

Helping to explain why the tanker market was in the doldrums in 2021, Poten in its latest weekly report highlighted falling ton-mile demand combined with an expanding fleet.

“A reversal of these trends, preferably both at the same time, will be necessary to improve the fortunes of tanker owners,” Poten suggested.