Box 1-2 - Report on Maritime Trade and Water Transportation

Box 1-2 - Report on Maritime Trade and Water Transportation

In late 1999, three Department of Transportation administrations, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will issue a report, Maritime Trade & Transportation 1999, which presents information about maritime transportation in the United States and around the world. It covers waterborne trade and transportation services between 1993 and 1997, reviews trends in U.S. shipbuilding, explores safety and environmental issues associated with maritime activities and recreational boating, discusses national security issues and navigation technology, and presents data needs. The report also examines capacity trends for three categories of vessels in deep-sea trade: 1) containerships and other general cargo vessels, 2) dry bulk carriers, and 3) tankers.

The capacity of the world’s containership fleet increased dramatically between 1993 and 1997, growing 15 percent per year. The growth was partly due to newly deployed large containerships (those able to handle 4,000 or more 20-foot equivalent container units) in east/west trade (e.g., between the United States and Japan), which led to the redeployment of smaller vessels for north/south intra-regional trade. Dry bulk fleet capacity grew 4.2 percent per year, while growth in tanker fleet capacity was 0.6 percent per year. A growing proportion of the world fleet is owned by parties whose nationality differs from that of the country in which the vessel is registered. In 1993, 50 percent of the world merchant fleet were in such open registries, while in 1997, open registries accounted for 57 percent of the merchant fleet. A very different picture of the world fleet appears if flag registry is compared with country of ownership. Panama, Liberia, Greece, the Bahamas, and Malta are the top five countries by registry, measured in total dead-weight tonnage, with the United States ranked 11th. Tankers accounted for a majority of the U.S.-owned capacity. When ownership is the criterion, Japan, Greece, the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom are the top five. However, for containerships, Germany ranks highest by far in ownership, with twice the dead-weight tonnage of the next two countries (Japan and Taiwan), each with over 5,000 dead-weight tons. Japan led in tanker and dry bulk capacity.

In the area of U.S. domestic waterborne trade, Alaskan crude oil shipments decreased in the 1990s resulting in an overall decline in domestic deep-sea shipping, even though other categories of shipments grew. Vessels on inland waterways carried 655 million metric tons in 1997. Great Lakes shipping reached 111 million metric tons in 1997.

Japan and South Korea are the world’s largest merchant shipbuilders, each holding about one-third of the market, followed by China, which is a distant third. The United States ranks 14th, with about 1 percent of the market by gross tonnage. Other components of the shipbuilding market include military construction, and ship repair and related industries. The major U.S. shipbuilding and repair base comprises 92 facilities, including 19 shipbuilding facilities, 33 dry-dock repair facilities, and 40 topside repair facilities. Although the U.S. shipbuilding industry is large, it traditionally focused on military orders, which are lower today than in the 1980s. Thus, the global market has become an important strategic opportunity for the U.S. shipbuilding industry.