Developments in international seaborne trade

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The world economic situation has brightened in 2010. However, multiple risks threaten to undermine the prospects of a sustained recovery and a stable world economy – including sovereign debt problems in many developed regions, and fiscal austerity. These risks are further magnified by the extraordinary shocks that have occurred in 2011, which have included natural disasters and political unrest, as well as rising and volatile energy and commodity prices. Given that for shipping, all stands and falls with worldwide macroeconomic conditions, the developments in world seaborne trade mirrored the performance of the wider economy. After contracting in 2009, international shipping experienced an upswing in demand in 2010, and recorded a positive turnaround in seaborne trade volumes especially in the dry bulk and container trade segments. However, the outlook remains fragile, as seaborne trade is subject to the same uncertainties and shocks that face the world economy. This chapter covers developments from January 2010 to June 2011. Section A reviews the overall performance of the global economy and world merchandise trade. Section B considers developments in world seaborne trade volumes and looks at trends unfolding in the economic sectors and activities that generate demand for shipping services, including oil and gas, mining, agriculture and steel production. Section C highlights some developments that are currently affecting maritime transport and have the potential to deeply reshape the landscape of international shipping and seaborne trade.

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