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Ocean shipping and shipbuilding

The main transport mode for global trade is ocean shipping: around 90% of traded goods are carried over the waves. As such, the oceans provide the main transport arteries for global trade. This comes with opportunities and challenges.

As demand for global freight increases, maritime trade volumes are set to triple to 2050.

Maritime transport forms part of a whole cluster of economic activities that can create economic value added.

The OECD and the International Transport Forum are working to chart the course for more efficient and sustainable maritime transport.

Ocean shipping and ship building stat

Maritime transport and the economy

Information sharing within the maritime logistics chain and digitalisation – both by private and public stakeholders - can help to further reduce inefficiencies and support smooth operations.

The challenge is to make sure that digitalisation is not used as a business strategy by a few powerful players to lock in customers and reduce competition.

Ocean shipping is also part of a larger maritime cluster in its position as buyer and customer. The shipping sector buys ships, so sustains the shipbuilding industry, and uses ports, terminals and logistics services. Such maritime clusters are considerable sources of economic value added, jobs and know-how in port-cities. This know-how could be essential for new ocean-based activities, such as off-shore energy provision.

The challenges for policy-makers is to make sure that policy support to the shipping sector realises wider economic benefits.

Developments in maritime transport – such as increased market concentration and ever-larger ships – have consequences for public infrastructures, such as ports, for which public authorities and governments are responsible.

Mega-ships and alliances in container shipping

Mega ships

Container ships have grown incessantly over recent decades due to a continuous search for economies of scale by shipping lines. In the past this has contributed to decreasing maritime transport costs that facilitated global trade. However, the increase in container ship sizes and the speed with which that happens has consequences for the rest of the transport chain. They require infrastructure adaptations and productivity levels that increase costs for port operators, port authorities and other stakeholders in the supply chain. Moreover, mega-ships cause peaks in ports and put a strain on hinterland transports.

OECD recommendations

  • Cost savings from bigger container ships are decreasing.
  • The transport costs due to larger ships could be substantial.
  • Supply chain risks related to mega-container ships are rising.
  • Public policies need to better take account of this and act accordingly.
  • Further increase of maximum container ship size would raise transport costs.

 

 

Key publication

Alliance

The global maritime shipping industry is also characterised by increasing concentration. The top four carriers accounted for over 55% of market share by capacity in 2018, up from less than 20% in 1998. Alliances between operators are also a hallmark of the sector. Together, alliances now account for almost all market share on the Asia-North European trade lane, up from around 50% in 2014.

OECD recommendations

  • Adopt a presumption toward repeal of shipping-specific block exemptions from competition law.
  • Improve project appraisal for port and hinterland infrastructure and adopt common principles for port pricing.
  • Establish more coherent ports policies to clarify roles and reduce risk of creating over-capacity.

 

 

Decarbonising maritime transport

Maritime transport is not only a source of prosperity but also of pollution. Global shipping is responsible for a substantial share of air emissions: approximately 30% of total global NOx emissions. These are emissions have been linked to thousands of premature deaths in coastal areas.

The International Transport Forum report Decarbonising maritime transport: Pathways to zero-carbon shipping by 2035 examines what would be needed to achieve zero CO2 emissions from international maritime transport by 2035. It assesses measures that can reduce shipping emissions effectively and describes possible decarbonisation pathways that use different combinations of these measures; and reviews under which conditions these measures could be implemented and presents concrete policy recommendations.

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OECD recommendations

  • Cost savings from bigger container ships are decreasing.
  • The transport costs due to larger ships could be substantial.
  • Supply chain risks related to mega-container ships are rising.
  • Public policies need to better take account of this and act accordingly.
  • Further increase of maximum container ship size would raise transport costs.

Shipbuilding

With world ship completion on a declining trend since its 2011 peak, the challenges of over-capacity and over-supply have increased for the shipbuilding industry. Consequently, the pressure on governments to introduce or expand policies to assist ailing shipbuilders has further intensified. At the same time, there is a greater level of international and regional-level environmental regulation affecting the operation of vessels, inducing both challenges and opportunities for shipbuilders.

These issues are made more complex by the growing weight of non-OECD economies in the shipbuilding market, and the existence of value chains linking shipbuilding and the wider maritime sector both within and across countries.

Against this backdrop, the OECD continues to support governments in establishing and maintaining normal competitive conditions in the shipbuilding market.

Around this central tenet, policy transparency and improving the understanding and design of shipbuilding policies, are important objectives. The OECD remains the only international forum where national representatives and industry and union interests can come together to exchange views and conduct economic and policy analysis on all aspects of the shipbuilding sector.

It is a platform for peer dialogue, sharing of best practices and policy transparency. Current OECD work on shipbuilding policy specifically addresses the key challenges of the global shipbuilding industry, including excess supply and excess capacity.