Transportation & Logistics Analysis

SHIPPING SERIES 2019-2029 - Scenarios for the evolution of container shipping lines

August 09 2019

Upply is pleased to offer you, as a "mini saga of the summer", a forward-thinking exercise on the possible evolutions in the container shipping line market, based around three geopolitical and economic scenarios. Explication.

We would like to say a big thank you to the large number of readers of our article on the evolution experienced by the "Big 3" of maritime transport for the period 2009/2019. Some of you have taken the time to contact me to point out that "OK, 2009/2019 is all well and good", but that a forward-thinking exercise covering the period 2019/2029 would be even better ...

It is in this spirit that I offer to you, as "this summer’s mini saga", a series of articles on the possible evolutions of the lay of the land concerning container shipping lines for the coming decade, according to three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: All-conquering China tightens its grip on the containerised maritime sector
  • Scenario 2: Rise of economic nationalism, the states take back control.
  • Scenario 3: A mix of the first two scenarios and a rise in power of GAFA-style new-generation distributors.

The reflection is based on the following main parameters:

- A structural super-slow steaming.

- A traditional retail world that is in low growth.

- A structural overcapacity that has settled in for the next 5 years.

- A stable environment in terms of port cargo handling.

- An ever-present influence from environmental issues.

- A threat to the future of "Blocks Exemptions" as of 2020 that will affect today’s three major alliances (this topic will be covered in detail during the 2nd semester of 2019).


This forward-looking vision has no predictive significance. It is to be taken as a light-hearted stylistic exercise, even if the issue addressed has serious consequences for our economies and our daily lives.

The major influence of containerised maritime trade in our modern interconnected economies will be marginally "challenged" over the next decade, but no other mass substitution of means can credibly imply an extensive break in this central link of all modern supply chains.

This week you will be able to read part 1, based on the assumption of an all-conquering China that tightens its grip on the containerised maritime sector.

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels


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Expert in Ocean shipping for 25 years, Jerome puts all his knowledge of the industry to contribution for Upply. Ship captain at heart, he has written the English-French Lexicon of Containerized Shipping (Paris: CELSE, 2001).
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