According to Clarkson’s Shipping Review & Outlook semi-annual report, global maritime trade fell by 0.5% in 2022, reaching 11.9 billion tonnes (Bt). This decline was due to the slowdown in the global economy, caused by inflation, rising interest rates, and slow growth in China. Although some negative data started to moderate in early 2023, with a 1% year-on-year growth in maritime trade in the first quarter, the global economy remains vulnerable.
Clarkson’s forecasts expect 12.1 Bt of goods to be transported by sea in 2023 (+1.6%) and 12.5 Bt in 2024 (+2.8%). The divergence between energy-related and non-energy-related trade growth continues to widen. In 2022, energy-related trade rebounded by 4%, while non-energy-related trade fell by 3%. Forecasts for 2023 are an increase of 3% and 1%, respectively.
The report shows some optimism for the dry bulk sector due to the increase in Chinese activity, which has been a good sign for this segment of the market. In addition, the reorganization of oil transportation matrices by sea due to the invasion of Ukraine has caused Clarkson to revise its growth forecasts for the demand for crude oil and petroleum products upwards.
Prospects for all segments except container ships are positive. Car carrier rates have reached historic highs due to port congestion, increased average distance, and growing demand for electric vehicle shipping. Ferries are approaching pre-pandemic levels.
On the other hand, the container ship market has undergone a sharp correction, with freight rates dropping 80% from the beginning of 2022. Clarkson expects supply to grow by 7% this year and demand to decline by 1%, so this market is likely not yet “bottomed out.”
The report also highlights that the global order book is near its historic low, and shipyard capacity is 40% below its peak level. The effects of the new IMO environmental regulations are complex and uncertain, but there is a possibility of increased freight rate volatility. Ships with “green” technologies represent 30% of fleet capacity, and those ready-to-use alternative fuels account for 60% of new orders since the beginning of 2022.