On the Horizon – Top Shipping Trends for 2018

The maritime sector is highly responsive to economic, technological, political and demographic changes. Carriers need to know the pulse of the latest trends so that they can set their strategy compasses in the right direction.

Here are some shipping trends for 2018 that will set the sails for the whole shipping industry in a new direction.

Carrier Consolidation

The global ocean carrier market is dominated by a few major carriers. In fact, the market share is so evident that it resembles an inverted pyramid. According to Drewry Consultants, more than 80% of the market is controlled by seven carriers. The market share at the top is getting bigger as leading players are consolidating their fleets.

Smaller players occupy less than 0.1% of the market share. With the giants gaining more market share through alliances, more and more small players could be looking forward to tying up with other smaller players to strengthen their position.

Predictive Analytics for Route Optimization

Data analytics has penetrated into every boardroom where decisions are made. In the shipping industry, it can offer insights about where the choke points could be less and last mile delivery points closer. Choke points refer to ports or docks where the time taken to unload or load shipments is longer than the usual. Predicting choke points is difficult since the factors can be unpredictable.

Luckily for carriers, predictive analytics helps take away the guesswork in planning future routes. Predictive analytics empowered by machine learning, mathematical algorithms, and historical information can help shippers make more informed decisions that will help them achieve cargo delivery efficiency.

In addition to predictive analytics, Big Data is also equipping carriers with Automated Identification Systems—a kind of constellation of satellites that tracks ships at sea. The end result is that carriers are able to make tactical decisions in the short-term that will help them save fuel costs, eliminate the risk of pirate attacks, survive threatening weather conditions and so on.

Blockchain Enters Shipping industry

The much talked about blockchain technology has found excellent use in shipping. The digital ledger based technology can help shippers dispel many challenges in shipping such as reducing paperwork, quickening transaction speed, ensuring product authenticity throughout the supply chain, and more.

Drones for Cargo Inspection

While the use of drones in public spaces is being debated across the world, the shipping industry has successfully completed testing of drones for cargo inspection. In the shipping sector, drones would come as effective tools for cargo inspection. environment surveillance, search and rescue, emergency assistance, etc.

In the coming years, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones as they are popularly called, will be seen buzzing around shipping containers in large numbers. They will assist the ship crew to do a large number of tasks which otherwise took a long time to complete given the sheer size of the vessel.

Increasing Vessel Size

Deloitte reports that the average vessel size has increased tremendously over the past 50 years. The average vessel size of today is at least seven times the TEU that vessels had in the 1970s. In 2018 and beyond, the average vessel size is expected to exceed 22,000 TEU.

The increase in vessel size is good news for carriers since they will be able to accommodate more shipments per each consignment. This would lead to massive cost economies as well as faster shipments. Just what the industry needs right now considering the surge in e-commerce and it’s on-demand delivery needs. Consolidation of the carrier industry is also giving a significant boost to the increase in average vessel size.

Long-term demographic shifts

There is a massive demographic shift happening around the world. Economic development at various levels is the catalyst for this demographic shift. The middle-class income groups in emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa are now left with higher disposable incomes that have increased the demand for commodities from the global market.

A consequence of this demographic shift is that carriers will have to invest more in building ports, add more capacity to their fleets and also invest in infrastructure and technology to cater to the growing needs of the world population. Eventually, this will lead to the introduction of newer routes and streamlined fleet operations.


The shipping industry has undergone a huge transformation during the past few years. The transformation has happened partly due to a shift in customer preferences. E-commerce has made scheduled deliveries a norm, leading to a change in the way goods are transported and received across the world. Technology has also been a major factor making significant changes in the way carriers plan shipments and carry out their routine tasks.

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