What Does The Next Half-Century Hold For Container Shipping

Container shipping has been established for 50 years. What does the next half-century hold for shipping lines and investors? It is expected that container volumes will rise to two to five times what they are today. This means the deployment larger ships than carriers are using currently. In fact, some envision that autonomous 50,000 TEU ships will plying the seas in 2067, alongside modular, drone-like floating containers.

Freight operators in 2067 will be closely connected through “data ecosystems,” and will have fully digitized customer interactions, and operating systems. It is forecast that three or four major container shipping companies will emerge as “digitally enabled independents with a strong customer orientation and innovative commercial practices, or small subsidiaries of tech giants blending the digital and the physical.” Freight forwarders as such will not survive the transformation, given that digitalization will obviate the need for intermediaries.

Integrated logistics providers could make freight forwarders irrelevant by mastering the complexity and the customer interface. – McKinsey Report

Changes in the global economy, reductions in income inequality, and the deployment of automation and robotics will result in a more dispersed manufacturing footprint. This is expected to contribute to the growth of short-haul intra-regional cargo traffic. Most notable, trade between Asia and Africa will be globally significant.

In order to be successful in the future, shipping companies must invest in digital technologies to differentiate their products, disintermediate value chains, improve customer service, raise productivity, and reduce costs. If they move faster than traditional logistics companies, technology companies may capture most of the value from customer relationships.

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