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Shipping Outlook 2024

Looking back on 2023 and looking forward to 2024, we’ve taken look at a few opinion pieces to provide you with a snapshot of the Global Shipping Outlook for 2024.


Global trade in 2023 saw a dynamic landscape, ever changing amidst the pressures and complexities of wars and their impact on the shipping industry. Entering into 2024, the situations only worsened with the perpetuation of the conflict between Gaza and Israel, between Russian and Ukraine, and now with other factions joining the conflict in the Middle East.

“With negative growth persisting since mid-2022, the world witnessed a significant contraction in goods trade, while services trade displayed unexpected resilience”, according to UNCTAD . The organisation goes on to say that “Despite major challenges stemming from global crises, such as the war in Ukraine, maritime trade is expected to grow 2.4% in 2023 and more than 2% between 2024 and 2028”


Freight Rates

Freight rates remain at ongoing post-covid downturn levels, but now as we being to see increased shipping costs related to the various conflicts it seems likely that big liner companies will start hiking rates.  In October 2023, in an article by the Cyprus Shipping News, Xeneta forecasted a stormy 2024 in light of this.

With the diversion around South Africa’s Cape, the shipping time extends anywhere between one to four weeks, causing heavy upward pressure in operating costs, and see’s profit margins declining significantly.

“In fact, freight rates have been so low that shipping liner companies have been effectively subsidising businesses to transport their goods around the world.

“The big shipping liner companies won’t allow this to continue and will jack up prices – it could be in 2024 or it could be later – but it’s inevitable and the carriers will want it sooner rather than later” says Xeneta CEO Patrick Berglund.


According to Seatrade-Maritime’s container shipping market outlook article , demand may be less than the newbuild capacity coming into the market “as some carriers feel the need to start placing orders for alternatively fuelled vessels,” they explain, however, events in the Red Sea are boosting spot rates at least in the short-term. Containerized trade is bouncing back, forecasted to grow 1.2%  in 2023, after suffering a 3.7% drop in 2022

In an article posted by Cyprus Shipping News, Container Xchange, a leading online container logistics platform, hosted a comprehensive survey of over 1200 supply chain professionals globally, and their results showed further evidence of this positive outlook. 74% of respondents express optimism about the industry’s growth, 20% expect stability, and only 6% anticipate a decline. Most respondents anticipated and increase in container prices

Energy Sector

Interestingly, a per an article we posted earlier this week, the Red Sea attacks are not affecting the oil market as much as one would expect. The oil and gas industry has seen a surge in trade in 2022, at 6% and 4.6% respectively, after the easing of pandemic restrictions. This growth appears to be little-changed in recent months, “most likely due to the history of the Russia Ukraine Conflict . The oil market has fragmented over the last two years, with Russia now primarily supplying China and India while the Middle East and the United States have replaced Russia in Europe.”

Tanker and Dry Bulk Rates

According to various reports, tanker and dry bulk rates have also shown positive trends. Seatrade-Maritime reports that “Tanker freight rates, crucial for oil and gas transport, peaked in 2022 and remain strong in 2023. But uncertainties due to the energy transition and new regulatory requirements could limit future carrying capacity”

They also take the same strong positive outlook for dry bulk rates: “Dry bulk rates, affecting commodities like grain and coal, were volatile in 2022, peaking in May before falling to pre-pandemic levels by the year’s end. Rates have since rebounded as demand surged and China’s industries recovered.”

The article goes on to report that with China stockpiles now being high, a repeat of China’s import of 150m tonnes of coal is not likely, however, this decline in demand from China is likely to be offset by and increase in demand from European and Japanese ore imports, as one example of expected market improvements.

Emissions Regulations

Further to Xeneta’s forecasts, they also predict further woes in 2024 with the introduction of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) (explained well here on the Investigate Europe website) “and the more strin-gent application of the IMO’s Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), both of which will require ocean liner companies to pay for their emissions”

Decarbonization remains and urgent requirement and need, but for most sectors this is a multi-billion dollar investment requirement amid a lack of clarity as to the best transition methods. Industry reluctance remains tangible.



It seems that various positive outlooks are evident in the shipping industry. However, as is also evident, various regions and different countries each have their own economic factors that will play a vital role, such as interest rates, industrial output, lengthening supply chains, commodity price fluctuations, tariff increases, and trade restrictions.  It will be a most interesting year to watch.

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