World seaborne trade

Tonnage loaded and unloaded, 2016(Billions of metric tons)
Map tonnage loaded and unloaded, 2016
a
Equivalent to the group ‘Developed economies: America’ on UNCTADstat.
b
Equivalent to the group ‘Developing economies: America’ on UNCTADstat.
c
Incl. the Russian Federation and the French overseas departments.
Find the data on UNCTADstat

Trends and geography of world seaborne trade

World seaborne trade reached 10.3 billion tons in 2016 after a steady increase over the last seven years. Since 2009, the volume of goods loaded and unloaded in ports worldwide has grown by 2.4 billion tons. In particular the trade of dry cargo and petroleum products and gas by sea has increased.

Asia is by far the largest trading region. In 2016, 4.1 billion tons of goods were loaded and 6.3 billion tons of goods were unloaded in Asian seaports. The other continents registered less than half of these amounts.

Contrary to Asia, in Oceania, in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Africa, more goods were loaded than unloaded. The volumes of goods delivered to ports in Oceania were, at less than 200 million metric tons, particularly small.

Figure 1Goods loaded worldwide (Billions of metric tons)

Contribution of developing economies

Developing economies, as a group, are a strong contributor to world seaborne trade. In 2016, they accounted for 59 per cent of total goods loaded and for 64 per cent of total goods unloaded. Their share in goods loaded has decreased slightly over the last ten years, whereas their share in goods unloaded has grown considerably: in 2006, less than half of the goods shipped worldwide were destined for seaports in developing economies; by 2016, this had increased to almost two thirds.

Figure 2Seaborne trade of developing economies (Percentage of corresponding world tonnage)

Developments in seaborne trade balances

In 2014, developing economies turned from net exporters into net importers of seaborne trade volumes. In 2016, they recorded 541 million tons more of goods unloaded than of goods loaded.

Transition economies have increased their seaborne trade surplus over the last five years, due to a strong growth of dry cargo loaded (from 331 million to 422 million tons) and a considerable drop of dry cargo unloaded (from 148 million to 57 million tons). The seaborne trade of developed economies is currently in balance. 1

1
For further analyses on that topic, see UNCTAD (2017c).
Figure 3Seaborne trade balance (Millions of metric tons)

Summary tables

Table 1

Total seaborne trade by group of economies

Group of economies

Loaded

Unloaded

Balance

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

Worlda

8 784

10 287

2.6

8 798

10 282

2.6

-13

5

Developing economies

5 297

6 046

1.2

5 009

6 587

5.8

288

-541

Developing economies: Africa

724

745

-1.3

378

506

4.2

346

239

Developing economies: America

1 239

1 369

3.1

508

594

0.8

731

775

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

3 334

3 931

1.0

4 122

5 487

6.6

-788

-1 555

Transition economies

505

646

2.2

157

62

4.9

348

585

Developed economies

2 982

3 595

5.2

3 632

3 633

-2.7

-650

-38

a
Annual totals of goods loaded and unloaded are not necessarily the same, given that goods loaded in one calendar year may reach their port of destination in the next calendar year.
Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 2

Seaborne trade by cargo type and group of economies

Crude oil

Group of economies

Loaded

Unloaded

Balance

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

Worlda

1 759

1 838

4.3

1 897

1 990

4.2

-137

-152

Developing economies

1 509

1 518

3.5

807

999

9.1

703

519

Developing economies: Africa

338

290

-1.2

38

40

1.9

300

250

Developing economies: America

254

271

21.1

71

58

-11.5

183

213

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

918

957

0.8

698

901

11.1

220

56

Transition economies

133

176

7.3

4

0

9.9

128

176

Developed economies

117

144

10.7

1 086

991

-0.3

-968

-847

a
Annual totals of goods loaded and unloaded are not necessarily the same, given that goods loaded in one calendar year may reach their port of destination in the next calendar year.

Petroleum product and gas

Group of economies

Loaded

Unloaded

Balance

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

Worlda

1 034

1 218

4.0

1 038

1 233

3.9

-4

-15

Developing economies

540

665

0.6

452

695

6.7

88

-31

Developing economies: Africa

69

50

-14.3

46

79

9.2

22

-29

Developing economies: America

83

70

-16.9

74

123

20.5

10

-53

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

388

545

5.2

332

494

3.3

56

51

Transition economies

42

48

11.8

4

4

2.9

38

44

Developed economies

452

505

8.1

581

533

0.5

-129

-28

a
Annual totals of goods loaded and unloaded are not necessarily the same, given that goods loaded in one calendar year may reach their port of destination in the next calendar year.

Dry cargo

Group of economies

Loaded

Unloaded

Balance

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

Annual growth rate

Volume

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

(Percentage)

(Millions of metric tons)

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

2016

2011

2016

Worlda

5 991

7 231

2.0

5 863

7 058

2.0

127

173

Developing economies

3 247

3 863

0.4

3 750

4 893

5.1

-503

-1 030

Developing economies: Africa

317

405

0.5

294

387

3.5

23

18

Developing economies: America

902

1 029

0.8

363

413

-2.0

539

616

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

2 028

2 430

0.3

3 093

4 092

6.0

-1 065

-1 663

Transition economies

331

422

-0.7

148

57

5.1

182

365

Developed economies

2 413

2 946

4.5

1 965

2 109

-4.5

448

838

a
Annual totals of goods loaded and unloaded are not necessarily the same, given that goods loaded in one calendar year may reach their port of destination in the next calendar year.
Table 3

Development of goods loaded worldwide by type of cargo

(Millions of metric tons)

Year

Total goods

Crude oil

Petroleum product and gas

Dry cargo

1971

2 692

1 210

320

1 162

1976

3 366

1 555

289

1 522

1981

3 555

1 364

327

1 864

1986

3 385

1 126

424

1 835

1991

4 120

1 333

457

2 330

1996

4 758

1 590

537

2 631

2001

6 020

1 678

499

3 844

2006

7 700

1 783

915

5 002

2011

8 784

1 759

1 034

5 991

2016

10 287

1 838

1 218

7 231