Figure 5
Worldwide Overseas Oceanborne Cargo: 1995-2007

Figure 5
Worldwide Overseas Oceanborne Cargo: 1995-2007

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(Millions of short tons)

Year Oceanborne cargo
1995 4,651
1996 4,758
1997 4,953
1998 5,631
1999 5,683
2000 5,984
2001 5,891
2002 5,948
2003 6,598
2004 6,893
2005 7,122
2006 7,761
2007 8,032

NOTE: Although figures 5 and 6 are not to the same scale, they both show nearly a doubling of cargo, by weight, over identical time spans.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, based on data from various sources. Oceanborne cargo-United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Review of Maritime Transport, various issues, available at as of Oct. 3, 2009. Air cargo-International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), special tabulations, Sept. 28, 2009.

  • In 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, the volume of worldwide international oceanborne cargo reached more than 8 billion tons. During the past decade, the annual average growth rate was about 3 percent.

  • Worldwide international air cargo reached 28 million tons in 2007, growing at an annual average rate of 5 percent over the past decade. This growth trend reflects continuing globalization of economic activities and increasing adoption of inventory management strategies.

  • By weight, the overwhelming majority of global overseas merchandise trade is carried by ocean vessel rather than airplane (excluding land modes of transportation). While generally ocean vessels transport low value-per-ton commodities (e.g., crude oil, grains, and coal), container vessels transport high value-per-ton manufactured goods of all kinds, such as automobiles, appliances, computer equipment, and apparel.