Water Transport

Oceans and waterways are important transport routes for cruise and cargo ships worldwide. In terms of global merchandise, the volume of seaborne trade almost doubled over the past two decades to reach around 11 billion tons loaded. The upward trend correlates with the advent of containerized trade and the streamlining of supply chains between container ports globally. Asia is home to the leading container port locations worldwide: Shanghai and Singapore. By 2021, container throughput at ports is expected to come to around 860 million twenty-foot equivalent units worldwide.

Transport volume of seaborne trade
11bn tons
World's leading ocean freight forwarder
Kuehne + Nagel
Leading container shipping line worldwide

Industry trends

The greening of the maritime shipping industry

Number of vessels fitted with scrubbing systems worldwide from 2015 to 2020

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Further details: Visit original statistic Number of vessels fitted with scrubbing systems worldwide from 2015 to 2020

The maritime shipping industry produces around 714 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized United Nations agency, continues to grow efforts to put a halt to a general growing trend in emissions. The IMO introduced a sulfur cap in 2020. As a result, ship operators increased the demand for emission abatement systems in vessels. It is estimated that the number of vessels fitted with scrubbing systems will reach 3,221 units in 2021.

Green maritime shipping worldwide
Climate change in the anthropocene
Carbon dioxide emissions in the maritime shipping industry

Industry leaders

Riding the wave

Leading ship operator's share of the world liner fleet as of November, 2022

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Further details: Visit original statistic Leading ship operator's share of the world liner fleet as of November, 2022

The largest container ship operator is A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S. The Denmark-based company has vessels with a combined capacity of around four million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in its fleet and holds between 15 and 17 percent of the global container shipping fleet. Hoping for improved cost control and capacity utilization, Mærsk has partnered up with MSC to form the 2M alliance. Mærsk’s revenue reached almost 40 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.

Container lines
Container shipping worldwide
Transportation: Water - global 2020

State of the industry

  • Transportation: Water in Europe - Industry Insights and Data Analysis
  • Transportation: Water in the U.S. 2022 - Industry Insights & Data Analysis
  • Green shipping
  • Container shipping worldwide
  • Container port industry in Singapore

Industry Definition

The water transport category offers data on cargo shipping by sea as well as the movement of cargo by ships and barges on inland waterways. Within this sector, Statista focuses on seaborne trade routes, the merchant fleet, and the leading ports worldwide. Information about the different vessel types used in water transport to move various types of commodities is also available. All of this information is complemented with rankings of freight forwarders and ports.


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