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46 Shipping Industry Statistics and Trends

The shipping industry can argue that it is the world’s first absolutely global industry. The efforts of many segments, ranging from package delivery to linear shipping, is what make the worldwide economy work.

Shipping connects businesses, markets, countries, and people. It is possible to buy and sell products on a scale never possible before because of the activities of this industry. We have become so used to the idea of goods being shipped from all parts of the world that the activities are often taken for granted. More variety is possible in every sector because of what shippers provide.

When reviewing these shipping industry statistics, it is essential to remember that the needs of a rapidly growing global population can only be met when items get transported between countries. That means everyone benefits from greater choice, stronger economies, and more employment opportunities.

Critical Shipping Industry Statistics

#1. Global seaborne container trade is responsible for about 60% of all the activities in this area, providing value to the worldwide economy of over $12 trillion in 2017. (Statista)

#2. The quantity of goods carried by shipping containers has risen from 102 million metric tons in 1980 to 1.83 billion metric tons in 2017. (Statista)

#3. Shipping vessels have increased their deadweight tonnage capacities since 1980 from about 11 million metric tons to over 260 million metric tons. (Statista)

#4. APM-Maersk is currently the largest container shipping company in the world today, providing a total capacity of about 4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). (Statista)

#5. The top container handling ports in the world are all based in Asia. Shanghai is the busiest location for this segment of the shipping industry in the world today, handling 42 million TEUs of cargo in 2018. Singapore manages 33.6 million TEUs, while Shenzhen manages 25.2 million TEUs. Los Angeles is the largest port in the United States, and it handled about 9.7 million TEUs. (Statista)

#6. Liner ships are responsible for transporting about 60% of the overall value of seaborne trade. That figure represents about $4 trillion in goods each year. (World Shipping Council)

#7. Over 200 countries have at least one port that is open to container ships. The total amount processed by the shipping industry at all of these ports is estimated at more than 785 million TEUs. (World Shipping Council)

#8. About 500 liner shipping services have regularly scheduled activities supported by the industry along a single trade route or a group of them. (World Shipping Council)

#9. China is the top exporter of containerized cargo, providing 36 million TEUs to the global shipping industry. The United States was second with 11.9 million TEUs, while South Korea was third at 5.93 million TEUs. Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Germany, Taiwan, and India all achieve more than 3 million TEUs in 2014, which is the last reported year. (World Shipping Council)

#10. Germany accounts for over 20% of the liner exports from the European Union and 17% of the region’s imports. (World Shipping Council)

#11. The United States is the top importer of containerized cargo, purchasing 19.6 million TEUs in 2014. China comes in second with 14.7 million TEUs, while Japan is third at 6.55 million TEUs. South Korea, Indonesia, and Germany all imported at least 3 million TEUs that year. (World Shipping Council)

#12. Container ships make about 9,000 port calls per week, while vehicle vessels add another 1,000 stops to that figure. That means the workers around the world can load and unload over 10,000 liner ship stops per week. (World Shipping Council)

#13. 87 billion parcels were shipped globally in 2018, representing a 104% increase from figures released in 2014. (Pitney Bowes)

#14. The United States is the largest market for parcel spending in the world today, representing $119 billion of the $317 billion in revenues this segment generates. (Statista)

#15. China ships the most parcels each year, producing 51 billion items in 2018. That figure represents a 28% increase from the year before, and it is significantly higher than the 13 billion items that Americans shipped during the year. (Statista)

#16. UPS earned $58 billion in revenues through a global delivery volume of 5.2 billion packages and documents. That means the company delivers over 20 million items every day. (United Parcel Service)

#17. UPS transports 3 million packages and documents by air every day, with another 3.2 million items having international destinations. (United Parcel Service)

#18. UPS is one of the few companies that can deliver parcels to every address in North America and Europe. It has a service area that incorporates 220 countries and territories. (United Parcel Service)

#19. Over 210 million tracking requests are managed every day by UPS for the shipping services that they provide. (United Parcel Service)

#20. Shipping services that involve water transportation contribute $36 billion to the American economy each year. About 64,000 direct employment opportunities are available because of these activities. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

#21. The Marine Transportation System transports products that represent 53% of U.S. imports and 38% of exports that support the economy. That figure represents the largest share of any node. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

#22. About 172 vessels make a call at U.S. seaports every day transporting goods from around the world. Containerships and tankers represent over 60% of this activity. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

#23. The operation of merchant ships generates about $500 billion in freight rates to support the industry’s annual income. (International Chamber of Shipping)

#24. Over 50,000 merchant ships trade internationally, transporting every kind of cargo that different industries produce every day. (International Chamber of Shipping)

#25. Panama is the world’s leading flag of registration by tonnage for the global shipping industry, representing 18.4% of the market. Liberia comes in second at 11.8%, while the Marshall Islands represent 11.6%. The United States ranks 20th, representing 0.63% of the world’s share of deadweight tonnage. (International Chamber of Shipping)

#26. Portugal saw the largest growth in deadweight tonnage that supports the global shipping industry in 2016-17, with a 54.97% increase in availability. This increase took the country above the United States to rank 19th with a 0.74% worldwide share. (International Chamber of Shipping)

#27. Only the United Kingdom (10.4%), the Cayman Islands (28.5%), and Iran (34.4%) saw double-digit increases in deadweight tonnages in 2016-17. South Korea saw a 10.8% reduction in this figure. (International Chamber of Shipping)

#28. 68% of the parcels that get shipped each year are delivered to a home address. 23% go to a post office, while 16% go to a postal service point. Only 15% of packages are destined for an office or commercial address. (Statista)

#29. The United States Postal Service handled a mail volume of 146.4 billion in 2018, which was about 3 billion less than the year before. About 70% of the volume loss came from a reduction in First-Class mail volume. (USPS)

#30. The shipping and package volume managed by the U.S. Postal Service was 6.2 billion in 2018, which was 500 million more items process than the year before. (USPS)

#31. About 37 million address changes get processed for Americans each year to ensure that their mail and packages continue to reach their intended parties. Over 159 million addresses are currently managed by the U.S. Postal Service. (USPS)

#32. The U.S. Postal Service currently manages over 231,000 delivery routes, which is only about 1,000 more than what was available in 2010. (USPS)

#33. The cost of global parcel delivery that excludes pickup services, line hauling, and sorting totals about $70 billion each year. The United States, China, and Germany account for 40% of this market. (McKinsey)

#34. About 50% of the cost of delivering parcels comes in the last mile, making it a key process to maximize for those who are seeking a way to find a competitive edge. (McKinsey)

#35. Approximately 30% of young consumers choose same-day or instant delivery options over regular or standard processes, even if that decision reflects an increase in the final total. (McKinsey)

#36. 25% of consumers say that they would pay a significant premium, up to $3, to receive their items on the same day, but only 2% of customers say that they’d be willing to pay much more than that for something instant. (McKinsey)

#37. Same-day and instant delivery are expected to be a 15% share of the parcel shipping industry market by the end of 2020. (McKinsey)

#38. Long delivery times are holding some industries back from maximizing their full potential with the shipping industry. 27% of consumers don’t use delivery options for groceries, and 26% say that they won’t use shipping for their medication. (McKinsey)

#39. Over 50% of consumers say that they choose their preferred delivery option based on the final cost. 20% also say that they prefer the cheapest available option for home delivery. (McKinsey)

#40. The average cost for a single shipping container was almost $1,500 in 2016, which is 15% lower than it was the year before for a TEU. (Journal of Commerce)

#41. The useful lifespan of the average shipping container is 15 years when it is put in constant service. Despite the potential risks of damage to this product, the depreciation level is about 50% over this time. Heavily used containers might have a lifespan of just 7 years. (Journal of Commerce)

#42. The five largest providers of leases for shipping containers represent about 85% of the revenues generated for their segment of the industry. (Research and Markets)

#43. About 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea while being transported by liner ships. That means about one is lost every hour. (Billie Box)

#44. The standard container used by the shipping industry offers a max gross weight of 30 tons per TEU. When upgrading to a 40-foot equivalent (FEU), the gross weight rises to 32.5 tons.

#45. Amazon spends about $6 billion per quarter on shipping costs, and this figure has risen by more than 30% in year-over-year comparison since 2016. (Amazon)

#46. Amazon sends out over 3 billion packages each year, with the USPS responsible for one-third of all deliveries. The company delivers 28% of its ordered items, followed by UPS at 27% and FedEx at 12%. The average cost of an outbound delivery is $3.70 per item. (Amazon)

Shipping Industry Trends and Analysis

The shipping industry continues to evolve to support the needs of consumers, communities, and economies at the state/province, national, and global levels. As people shop online and expect faster delivery responses for their parcels, the shipping industry will continue to adapt in its methods of handling items.

Container shipping will continue to be the top priority for the import segment of the industry, but air transport may see a surge of interest in the coming years as sites like Amazon provide more third-party services. This development will create affordable access to small businesses, creating a way to build an international business from the comfort of a home office.

The world shipping fleet is currently registered in over 150 countries. Over 1 million seafarers from almost every nationality help to support this industry. Expect it to continue seeing annual growth rates in the 5% range, with some segments achieving double-digit percentages consistently over the next decade.

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