Over 90% of the world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. This is the reason why shipping is among the most important industries for the economy of any country. Without a robust shipping industry it would be almost impossible for a country to take part in intercontinental trade or for a company to transport the raw materials in bulk from the site to the factory. In addition to this, the shipping industry is also required for affordable import/export of manufactured goods as well. Thus, it is easily understandable why shipping industry is indispensable not only for a country’s economy but for the global economy as well. The international body that supervises the international shipping industry is the International Maritime Organization.
International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization or IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations which has been tasked with the duty of regulating and overseeing the international shipping industry. The aspects of shipping that are controlled by the IMO include maritime security, efficiency of shipping, environmental concerns, safety, technical cooperation and legal matters. This agency which was formerly known by the name of Inter-Government Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) came into being in 1948 in Geneva and became operational in the year 1959 when its first meeting was held. The IMO has its headquarters in London and has a total of 171 full members along with 3 associate members.
All the member countries of the IMO are bound to ratify the multilateral treaty which has been given the name of Convention on the International Maritime Organization. The IMO has a number of technical committees and sub-committees that come up with regulations for the emerging problems of the shipping industry. They are also responsible for developing codes that are used by all of the member nations. The information regarding the signal codes and other regulations that have been passed by the IMO is available on the website of the agency.
Growth of the International Shipping Industry
With the population of the world increasing at a rapid pace, the growth of the international shipping industry has been gathering speed as well. There has been an unprecedented increase in the amount of the world seaborne trade in the past few years. The amount of goods or cargo that is loaded on the ships has seen a massive rise and as of 2008 has reached a total of 8.2 billion tons. The recession in 2009 had a negative effect on the growth of the international shipping industry but by 2010, the industry mounted a comeback and grew by almost 7%, increasing the total of goods loaded to a whopping 8.4 billion tons. This figure is expected to grow well beyond 10 billion tons by the end of 2015.
Leading Fleets in the International Shipping Industry
Many countries in the world have a large fleet of ships that are used for transporting goods and other merchandise from one part of the country to another and for international trade. Some of the countries that have the largest fleets in the international shipping industry include Panama, Hong Kong, China and Singapore. When it comes to having controlled fleets, Japan and Greece top the list.
World Merchant Fleet
The merchant fleet of the world which includes merchant ships responsible for carrying the cargo from one country to the other is estimated to be around 54,897 ships. More and more merchant ships are added on a regular basis to the world merchant fleet and its number is constantly rising.
Challenges Facing the International Shipping Industry
Even though the growth rate of the shipping industry has seen a massive rise over the years, one of the biggest challenges that ship-owners are facing at the moment is that of overcapacity. They are soon realizing the fact that the growth in the supply side of shipping has not been reciprocated in the same manner by the growth in the short-term demand. Moreover, the fleet utilization level is also being expected to drop below the comfortable level. Also, rising energy costs are another factor that will have a knock-on effect on shipping, as oil and energy become more expensive.
Industry must go back to basics, to become more cost effective. There are no magic solutions, but embracing new technologies, such as Seafasten’s GRID, might be a starting point. It is evident from the data that the future for the shipping industry will be strong, and the general trend among the new cargo ships is towards specialization.