Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Our three scenarios for container shipping in 2023

January 03 2023

The year 2023 will mark the end of windfall profits for shipping companies, in a context of profound transformation of freight flows.

“For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself”." This quotation from the early 17th century, which is attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh, perfectly describes the philosophy behind the strategy pursued by China over the last 30 years. In 2023, however, shipping is going into a new phase in its development.

In 2022, the sector was still making the headlines, revealing not always voluntarily to the general public its key role in an economy which is (still) globalised, its exceptional profits and its role in relations to national sovereignty. Today, however, for the economic and geopolitical reasons which we have discussed extensively over the last year in our articles, the globalisation process has run into major obstacles, even if it is too early still to suggest that the process has gone into reverse.

The lackluster prospects for growth in 2023 raise questions about the options available to the shipping companies. One thing is certain, however: they are not going to be able to stay static. Even though it might seem surprising to raise questions about their capacity for survival after two years of record profits, such questions are apt. Adaptability is going to be the watchword as the sector confronts the complex task of dealing with market developments and staying profitable, while it continues to work with capital-heavy tools offering little room for agility.


  • 2023, a turning point for the shipping companies
  • The three Rs - Rethinking, Restructuring and Reducing
  • Scenario 1: The shipping alliances implode
  • Scenario 2: Carrier discipline holds good
  • Scenario 3: War breaks out

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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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