About The Industry

Global Trade

Liner shipping could lay claim to being the world's first truly global industry. Likewise it could claim to be the industry which, more than any other makes it possible for a truly global economy to work. It connects countries, markets, businesses and people, allowing them to buy and sell goods on a scale not previously possible. And as consumers, we have become used to seeing goods from all parts of the globe readily available in the stores we visit.

But is this a good thing?

The reality is that the needs of a rapidly growing world population can only be met by transporting goods and resources between countries. The liner shipping industry has made this process more efficient and changed the shape of the world economy. This benefits consumers by creating choice, boosting economies and creating employment. Costs for the consumer are kept down and efficiencies are improved and this in turn minimizes impact on the environment as well.

Trade Statistics

The exchange of capital, goods and services across international borders is known as international trade and in many countries it represents a significant share of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP.) Liner ships transport approximately 60 percent of the value of seaborne trade or more than US $4 trillion worth of goods annually. Learn more about the volume of trade handled by the liner shipping industry.

Trade Routes

Trade between an origin group of countries and a destination group of countries is referred to as a trade route. Approximately 500 liner shipping services provide regularly scheduled service between ports along a single trade route or a group of trade routes. Learn more.


Over 200 countries have ports open to container ships. Ports measure the volume of containers they handle in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). In 2018, containers handled by all ports world-wide (including empties, transshipments and port handling)  are estimated at more than 785 million TEU. * Learn more.

Landside Connections

Cargo that moves aboard liner ships must be able to move efficiently across land to connect with the ships since the many businesses and consumers that are selling and buying goods are located long distances from a port. The continued efficiencies for global trade gained by the use of liner shipping are dependent upon an inland transportation network that allows for the timely and efficient overland transfer and transport of cargo. Learn more.

* Drewry Container Forecaster Q1 2016