Smart and Sustainable Maritime Transport Critical to Restoring Peace: UNCTAD |

Maritime trade contracted 3.8% in 2020, but rebounded later and is estimated to grow 4.3% this year, according to the report.

UNCTAD Maritime Transport Review 2021 shows that the medium-term outlook remains positive, but with “growing risks and uncertainties” such as unprecedented pressure on global supply chains, spikes in freight rates and price increases affecting both consumers and importers.

Vaccine deployment is critical

The agency said global social and economic recovery will depend on smart, sustainable and sustainable maritime transport, as well as worldwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts in which developing countries have more equitable access to doses.

“Sustainable recovery will depend on the path of the pandemic and highly dependent on the ability to mitigate the effects of headwinds and on the deployment of the vaccine worldwide,” said Rebeca Greenspan, UNCTAD Secretary General.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been hit hardest by the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, she added.

As UN chief Antonio Guterres has repeatedly noted, COVID-19 has exposed numerous manifestations of social inequality.

Existing problems identified

UNCTAD said the pandemic also exposed and exacerbated existing problems in the maritime transport industry, especially labor shortages and infrastructure needs.

The agency has called for urgent action to ease the plight of the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who remain at sea due to the pandemic, as blockages, border closures and a lack of international flights have affected crew changes and repatriation.

The report says industry, governments and international organizations must ensure that seafarers are designated key personnel and receive vaccinations as a priority.

The report examines the factors driving the rise in consumer prices.

Logistics challenges, rapid growth

The recovery in maritime trade was marked by “logistical problems caused by the pandemic,” such as lack of equipment and containers, less reliable services and congested ports. The resulting supply chain bottlenecks are hampering economic recovery.

Problems also exist on the supply side. Although orders for new container ships fell 16% last year, continuing a previous downward trend, shipping companies have increased orders for new vessels this year amid current capacity constraints.

Shipping companies have benefited from skyrocketing freight rates, the report said.

Surcharges, tolls and rates temporarily rose even higher after the shutdown of Ever Given, a huge container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March this year, disrupting global trade.

UNCTAD warned that import and consumer prices will “rise significantly” if container rates continue to rise.

Track market behavior

His analysis showed that the level of world import prices will rise by an average of 11 percent and up to 24 percent for small island developing States, which are mainly dependent on maritime transport for imports.

If the situation continues, consumer prices could rise by 1.5 percent in 2023. Growth is expected to be 7.5 per cent in small island developing States and 2.2 per cent in LDCs.

UNCTAD stressed the need to monitor market behavior and ensure transparency in the setting of rates, charges and premiums.

The report also looks at how the pandemic has amplified “megatrends” that can transform maritime transport, such as digitalization and automation, which should lead to efficiency gains and cost savings.

Building resilience to climate change

The shipping industry is also deeply involved in climate change adaptation and resilience, although the urgent need for decarbonisation and finding alternative fuels to reduce emissions will be costly.

“By identifying vulnerabilities in existing supply chains, the COVID-19 disruption has heightened the need for resilience and rekindled the debate about globalization and the supply chain of the future,” said Shamika N. Sirimann, director of technology and logistics at UNCTAD.

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