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China’s ‘Belt and Road’, e-commerce to redefine shipping lines

Updated October 07, 2018

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Governments have a role to play by supporting the current positive economic trends and promoting a self-sustaining global economic recovery. ─ File
Governments have a role to play by supporting the current positive economic trends and promoting a self-sustaining global economic recovery. ─ File

ISLAMABAD: The face of global shipping may be altered and seaborne trade flows and patterns redefined in the wake of new factors such as digitalisation, e-commerce and the China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative which are increasingly unfolding, says a report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“The value of shipping can no longer be determined by scale alone. The ability of the sector to leverage relevant technological advances to improve processes and operations, cut costs and generate value for the industry and customers, as well as the broader economy and society, is becoming increasingly important,” UNCTAD says in its Review of Maritime Transport for 2018.

UNCTAD projections are pointing to continued growth in world seaborne trade, which hinges on continued growth in GDP. At the same time, upside and downside risks to the outlook are manifold and include rising trade tensions on the downside and digitalisation on the upside.

At a time of growing concerns over the rise of protectionist sentiments, barrier to trade and trade disputes that may result in far-reaching detrimental impacts for the global economy and trade should be avoided to the extent possible, suggests the report.

Governments have a role to play by supporting the current positive economic trends and promoting a self-sustaining global economic recovery. This may entail, among other measures, commodity-dependent countries, it says.

According to the report, relevant regulatory authorities, maritime transport analysts, as well as development entities such as UNCTAD need to regularly monitor market concentration trends in liner shipping and assess potential implications in terms of market power, freight rates, surcharges and other costs to shippers and trade.

Governments, in collaboration with the shipping industry, the private sector, and the trade and business community need to build digital preparedness and promote greater uptake of relevant technologies. This will require, among others, providing an enabling legal and regulatory framework and supporting training and initiatives to build knowledge and upgrade skills.

All stakeholders, including governments, need to work together and support the development of transportation and supply chain infrastructure and services tailored for e-commerce.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018