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Global maritime trade surge driven by developing countries – UNCTAD

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The globalization of the maritime business has allowed shipping companies to source from the most cost-efficient suppliers and has led to the reduction of international transport costs which directly benefits global merchandise trade, according to the latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Review of Maritime Transport.

The Review, released November 23, 2011, states that maritime transport saw an increase in demand in 2010 particularly in the dry bulk and container trade segments.

It said total seaborne trade reached an estimated 8.4 billion tonnes.

On the supply side, UNCTAD said “2010 saw record deliveries of new tonnage, 28% higher than in 2009, resulting in an 8.6% growth in the world merchant fleet.”

It adds that “the fleet reached almost 1.4 billion deadweight tonnes (DWT) in January of 2011, which is an increase of 120 million of DWT over 2010. New deliveries stood at 150 million DWT, against demolitions and other withdrawals from a market of approximately 30 million DWT.”

According to the Review, developing countries have made remarkable progress in international seaborne transport for more than 40 years.

Developing countries´ shipping no longer consists solely of raw materials exports to the developed world.

UNCTAD opined that in the last decades, developing countries have seen their increased participation in global supply chains, which led to a surge in imports of primary and intermediary products.

“Between 1970 and 2010, developing countries´ share in the volume of seaborne imports rose from just 18% to 56% of the world´s total. The world´s busiest container ports are Shanghai, Hong Kong (China) and Singapore, and Asian developing countries have the highest indicators of maritime transport connectivity,” said the Review and also captured by UNCTAD´s Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI).

The Review continues; “In the past decades, developing countries have substantially expanded their fields of expertise to maritime sectors of greater business sophistication and technical complexity. They first became major market players in the provision of seafarers and vessel registration, and are now expanding into practically all major maritime sectors.”

However, UNCTAD noted that many least developed countries (LDCs) still do not have the ability to participate fully in the maritime business, which increasingly requires advanced technological capacities and the existence of industrial or service clusters.

“These countries are confronted with the double challenge of having to upgrade seaport facilities to accommodate larger ships while seeing competition being reduced with fewer regular shipping services calling at their ports,” the UN trade agency said.

Shipping companies from developed and developing countries alike increasingly rely on goods and services from developing countries to remain competitive, the agency indicated.

Already in the 1970s, ship-owners made use of open registries, enabling them to hire crews from countries with lower labour costs. In more recent decades, shipping companies also started purchasing their vessels in shipyards from developing countries, as vessels constructed in European or United States shipyards would often be too expensive, it said.

In a related story, ECOWAS has assured private investors that it will lend its full support to efforts by the private sector to develop a viable maritime transport system that will facilitate intra-community trade, economic development and regional integration.

President of the ECOWAS Commission, James Victor Gbeho told a delegation of private sector actors involved in a regional Sealink Project, who paid him a visit on November 18, 2011 at the Commission’s Abuja headquarters that the region had been prevented from doing vibrant businesses by the lack of viable maritime transportation system.

He pledged the Commission’s support affirming that apart from linking the private entrepreneurs with the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) to take the process forward, the Commission could help create the enabling environment in Member States and also link up development partners for possible participation in the Sealink Project.

The private sector delegation included Mr. Bashir Wali of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Mrs. Dorothy Ogbutor, of the Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), as well as Mr. Wilson Krofal, immediate past president of FEWACCI, Alhaji Sanusi Maijama’a of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture) (NACCIMA), and Mr. Tidiane  Traore, a consultant and Team leader on the Sealink Project Feasibility Study and Coordinator of the project’s Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

By Ekow Quandzie

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