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30 Shipping Statistics You Need To Know

30 Shipping Statistics You Need To Know

The shipping industry is the backbone of global commerce. It’s always in the background, working relentlessly to connect nations, businesses, and individuals across continents. According to shipping statistics, the industry transports approximately 11 billion tons of goods annually—that’s about 1.5 tons for every person on the planet! Thanks to the industry about 2 billion tons of crude oil, 1 billion tons of iron ore, and 350 million tons of grain are transported globally annually.

Nigerian business owners like Adetola also benefit from the shipping industry. It enables them to source products from global markets, expand their customer base, and compete globally. Shipping benefits extend to daily commodities where you can easily access products like coffee, wine, and even a pair of Nike trainers produced on the other side of the world.

As the shipping industry continues expanding, with projections estimating 15.87 billion U.S. dollars in 2028, companies are heavily investing in digitalization, vessel automation, and advanced analytics to remain competitive. This article will explore thirty shipping statistics you need to know in 2024. Let’s get started.

2024 Shipping Statistics

Global Shipping Volume and Reach
The shipping industry is responsible for the transportation of approximately 11 billion tons of goods annually, which equates to about 1.5 tons per person globally

Seaborne trade has grown significantly, doubling from four to nearly 11 billion tons between 1990 and 2021.

The capacity of the global merchant fleet has also seen a substantial increase, growing by about 43% from 2013 to 2021, reaching almost 2.1 million deadweight tons by 2021. This expansion is mirrored by the growth in container shipping, where the deadweight tonnage of container ships escalated from about 11 million metric tons in 1980 to approximately 293 million metric tons in 2022. The Mediterranean Shipping Company, as the largest container ship operator globally, exemplifies this growth with a capacity exceeding five million TEUs.

Significant ports and new trading routes also reflect this expansion. In 2022, the port of Shanghai was the busiest, handling about 47 million TEUs of containerized cargo, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region.

Economic Impact of the Shipping Industry

The shipping industry is pivotal in global economic value generation and technological advancement. Here is a closer look at some key economic impacts:

Contribution to Consumer Goods Pricing: The shipping industry significantly reduces the transportation cost per ton, making it the most cost-effective transport mode. For instance, it adds merely 0.3p to the £2.50 cost of a cup of coffee, 20p to a £5 bottle of wine, and $5 to a $100 Nike trainer. This affordability in logistics allows for lower consumer prices and greater accessibility to various products globally.

Record Profits and Industry Growth: In 2022, the container shipping industry reported a record profit of approximately 208 billion USD, nearly doubling its profit from the previous year. This surge reflects how important the industry is for global trade. The demand for larger container ships has also risen, with about 5,600 ships in the global merchant fleet as of December 2022, showing a scaling up of operations to meet global demand.

Technological Advancements and Economic Clusters: Blockchain technology is changing the shipping industry by enhancing supply chain transparency, security, and efficiency. This technology enables better tracking of goods and streamlines global trade operations, thereby digitizing documentation processes. Maritime transport is part of a broader economic cluster that generates significant economic value, presenting opportunities and challenges. This integration into larger economic systems shows the shipping industry's role as a cornerstone of global economic infrastructure.

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Technological Advancements in the Shipping Industry

Autonomous and AI-Driven Technologies: Autonomous ships are significantly transforming maritime operations. Four categories of autonomy have been developed, ranging from partially automated ships to fully autonomous vessels that operate without human intervention. These ships, like the Mayflower Autonomous Ship and Yara Birkeland, use advanced sensors and AI systems for navigation and operational decisions. AI algorithms are also employed to predict equipment failures, optimize cargo stowage, and revolutionize demand forecasting and inventory management, significantly enhancing operational efficiencies.

Digitalization and Connectivity: The shipping industry is experiencing a digital revolution, integrating IoT devices that connect vessels, cargo, and containers, allowing for real-time monitoring and vastly improved decision-making. High-speed internet access through low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellite technology is also crucial, enhancing communication and supply chain visibility even in remote areas. Comprehensive networks of sensors installed on ships monitor various operational parameters and help with ship-to-shore communications, ensuring continuous monitoring and management from land-based teams. This makes tracking very possible when you use ocean shipping.

Environmental and Safety Innovations: To address environmental concerns, technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data are being leveraged to optimize fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) supports these initiatives through mandatory and voluntary measures like EEDI, SEEMP, and EEOI, which aim to promote energy efficiency and reduce the ecological footprint of shipping activities.

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Environmental Challenges and Sustainability Initiatives

While essential for global trade, the shipping industry faces significant environmental challenges. It contributes to over 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) committed to reducing this carbon footprint significantly. The IMO's strategy includes cutting GHG emissions by at least half by 2050 by monitoring ships' energy efficiency, implementing stringent regulations, and promoting alternative fuels like LNG, hydrogen, and solar energy. The shipping industry is also looking to tackle underwater noise which negatively affects marine ecosystems.

Regulatory bodies worldwide are enforcing stricter environmental standards. For instance, the EU mandates a 55% reduction in carbon emissions from ships by 2030, while the US targets a zero-emission shipping sector by 2050. These regulations are supported by technological advancements and the development of new engine technologies aimed at facilitating the transition to zero-carbon emission ships, ideally by the early 2030s.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Shipping Industry

Disruptions and Economic Impact

  • Immediate Effects and Volume Decline: The start of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about significant disruptions in the shipping industry. There was a notable 3.8% decline in shipping volumes in the first quarter of 2020, increasing to a more severe impact in the subsequent quarters. Container shipping, handling 60% of global merchandise trade, faced a 5-10% drop in volumes during the same period.
  • Financial Strain on Container Lines: The top 10 container shipping lines witnessed a drastic 19.3% year-on-year decline in revenue during the first quarter of 2020. Concurrently, the average freight rate for container shipping fell by 1.2%, with further declines anticipated, exacerbating the financial strain on the industry.
  • Increase in Cancelled Sailings: The pandemic led to a surge in cancelled sailings, which reached 12% of total scheduled sailings in the early months of 2020, reflecting the immediate logistical challenges faced by the sector.

Market Reactions and Long-Term Effects

  • Stock Market and Sector-Specific Impacts: The shipping industry's stock markets, particularly the Baltic Indices, experienced direct impacts, with notable negative reactions in the dry bulk and dirty tanker sectors. An event study approach revealed that the markets reacted adversely to the World Health Organization's announcement on January 30, 2020, although a rapid recovery followed within 4-5 days.
  • Divergent Responses in Tanker Market: The tanker market displayed a mixed response; while there was an excellent cash position due to increased floating storage, the container market saw a decrease in idle tonnage, highlighting the varied impacts across different segments of the industry.
  • Challenges in Newbuild Ordering: The pandemic and other influencing factors also led to a shortened orderbook, as newbuild ordering was constrained.

Operational Challenges and Adaptations

  • Humanitarian and Operational Crises: The pandemic precipitated a humanitarian crisis among seafarers, leading to major travel challenges and widespread contract violations.
  • Port Congestion and Supply Chain Disruptions: Severe congestion at major ports, such as the Los Angeles port, peaked with a record high of 73 container ships waiting offshore in September 2021, causing significant delays in cargo handling and a spike in freight prices. The pandemic shifted consumer behavior towards online shopping, increasing the demand for shipping.
  • Strategic Adjustments: In response to these unprecedented challenges, shipping companies began reevaluating and restructuring their supply chains to enhance resilience against future disruptions.

As the shipping industry looks toward the future, several key trends and predictions are expected to shape its trajectory. Here's a closer examination of what might lie ahead:

  • Expansion of Maritime Trade Volumes: With global demand for freight on the rise, maritime trade volumes are projected to triple by 2050. This significant increase shows the importance of the shipping industry to global trade and the need for continued innovation and efficiency improvements.
  • Aging Fleet Challenges and Opportunities: The average age of ships currently stands at 22.2 years, with over half of all vessels being older than 15 years. This aging fleet presents challenges in scrapping older ships. The silver lining is that it also opens up opportunities for introducing newer, more environmentally friendly ships equipped with the latest technologies.
  • Technological Advancements and Mega Ships: The shipping industry continues to evolve technologically, with larger capacity ships becoming more prevalent. Innovations in ship technology, structure, and materials are leading to the construction of larger mega-ships, such as the MOL Triumph, which can carry up to 20,150 TEU containers. These vessels offer lower transport costs and more efficient use of container space, marking a significant step forward in maritime logistics.
  • Market Adjustments and Strategic Responses: The current landscape of reduced demand and oversupply will likely lead to fierce competition, reduced profits, and possibly more mergers and acquisitions in the industry. Container schedule reliability is improving, although challenges remain, and blank sailings are expected to rise in response to market volatility.
  • Regional Imbalances and Creative Adaptations: Due to ongoing economic crises, container availability may remain imbalanced in certain regions. However, lessons learned from past disruptions have made the global freight industry more creative and adaptive, ensuring that the flow of goods will continue despite challenges.


Adeola and many Nigerian business owners rely on the shipping industry to expand their businesses globally. It is the engine that keeps our economy running smoothly, bringing goods from far and wide to our doorstep in Nigeria. The industry is gearing up for a brighter future with advancements like AI and sustainability efforts.

If you are like Adeola and want to access products from the US, UK, or China, sign up on Heroshe to ship directly to Nigeria. You will be joining 40,000+ people who are currently enjoying the love and swift delivery we provide.

Afolabi Ojabowale

Afolabi Ojabowale

Ojabowale Afolabi is the content marketing lead at Heroshe. I have a deep passion for telling brands' stories to educate their audiences across a breadth of media and content forms.