Friday Fun Fact #1: Shipping accounts for 90% of world trade

Friday Fun Fact #1: Shipping accounts for 90% of world trade

Hello! Welcome to our first post on shipping fun facts! This is part of a series we’ll be publishing every Friday over the coming weeks. All these stem from the 13 curious facts about the shipping industry post we created earlier this year, which proved to be immensely popular among our readers! So we decided to develop each fun fact a little more to give it more depth!

Fun Fact #1: Shipping accounts for 90% of world trade

According to experts, the maritime ocean freight industry is crucial to maintaining a sufficient level of goods importation and exportation. Without it, sustaining the modern economy would be impossible.

This is, of course, all thanks to Malcolm McLean, the father of the modern container shipping industry. Because of him, we’re able to trade more efficiently today. Modern maritime transport has liberalized our economies. It has brought benefits to consumers and businesses all over the world. And despite its long history, the industry continues to grow.


Over the past century, the industry experienced a general increasing trend in total trade volume. Industrialization and globalization brought about free trade and an increasing demand for consumer products. Did you know that the US imports 90% of its Christmas products from China? 

Thanks to technological developments, shipping has become an efficient and reliable method of transporting goods. Total seaborne trades are estimated to have as much as quadrupled over the past four decades - from 8,000 billion tonne-miles in 1968 to 32,000 billion tonne-miles in 2008. A tonne-mile is the number of tons multiplied by the distance. This figure is estimated to reach 300,000 billion tonne-miles by 2050. That’s a whopping 600 times the amount of domestic water transportation done in the US!

Also, there are currently more than 50,000 merchant ships involved in international trade. They carry pretty much all types of cargo - from auto shipments to livestock! The world shipping fleet is registered in more than 150 countries, maintained by more than one million seafarers of nearly all nationalities.

That’s it for today’s Friday fun fact! We hope you enjoyed it!

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Klaus Lydsal

"Customs duties play an important role in your international shipment. How they're determined and calculated varies from country to country"

Klaus Lydsal, vice president of operations at iContainers