LR: Key global maritime trends for the future of shipping

According to the latest report by Lloyd’s Register, for the maritime sector, the triple planetary crisis, characterised by climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution, will be the defining challenge that shapes the decades ahead.

In particular, the report “Global Maritime Trends 2050”, authored by Economist Impact, which is part of a new joint multi-year Global Maritime Trends programme between Lloyd’s Register and Lloyd’s Register Foundation highlights:

  • Some of the world’s largest ports becoming unusable due to sea level rises.
    • The IPCC estimates that sea levels are expected to rise by 0.29m to 0.51m by 2100 in a business-as- usual scenario.
    • The report shows that a 40cm rise by 2050 could possibly render the ports of Houston (US) Shanghai (China) and Lázaro Cárdenas (Mexico) unusable.
  • African nations becoming dominant sources of labour supply to the industry.
    • The IMF has forecasted that Africa will have the world’s youngest median age by 2050, at just 25.
    • As other regions face increasingly ageing populations, Africa will buck the trend. For industries like shipping, this means that new recruits may increasingly come from African countries, potentially supplanting traditional strongholds in Asia.
  • Women making up 25% of seafaring workforce by 2050 due to technological advancements
    • In 2021, women accounted for less than 2% of the global seafaring workforce, according to the latest BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report.
    • But a technology-driven energy transition could see this rapidly increase by mid-century.
    • By 2050, the need for more tech-savvy ship managers could enable more women to take on managing positions on land and at sea, as increasingly autonomous ships and systems call for oversight and monitoring rather than intensive manual labour.
Credit: LR

The report analysed likely future scenarios for shipping in 2050, based on the speed of technology adoption and the level of global collaboration, to help the industry forecast risks, opportunities, and required investment. It was presented at an event at The Gherkin during London International Shipping Week.

Nick Brown, CEO of Lloyd’s Register, said that the report and the wider programme which will help benchmark some of the findings, represented an excellent opportunity to prepare for change and take action. He commented that other industries are much better at forecasting. The financial sector, for example, has a deep understanding of potential future scenarios and how to prepare for them, but shipping lags behind.

From tackling the energy transition to sourcing the next generation of seafarers, we’ve allowed uncertainty to delay action for too long. Now we’ve created a way for the industry to get a much better idea of the future. It’s time for them to get on board.

…added Nick Brown.

Shipping is deeply intertwined with geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges. Ships deliver 80% of the world’s trade and disruptions are felt acutely across the globe.

..said Ruth Boumphrey, CEO, Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Amid global supply chain uncertainties, the urgent need to decarbonise, the integration of new technologies, concerns about human rights and safety at sea, and the future of labour supplies, it’s crucial that those in the shipping industry do everything in their power to anticipate, mitigate, and overcome these challenges without causing harm elsewhere.


#1 Geopolitical and macroeconomic trends

Growing populations across Asia and Africa: More than half of the projected increases in global population numbers up to 2050 will be concentrated in Asia and Africa across eight countries, according to the UN. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

Deglobalisation and fragmentation become more entrenched:  As trends emerging today become more entrenched, 2050 will be characterised by deglobalisation and fragmentation, which place greater emphasis on regional links, near- and friend-shoring, economic blocs for regional free trade, and protectionist policies to protect some sensitive and/or strategically important sectors.

The dominance of Asian economies: The coming decades will see the dominance of Asian economies, driven by shifting population dynamics, new resource demands and technological innovations

The regionalisation and/or localisation of conflicts: Remaining conflicts are likely to be concentrated within regions as global wars become more costly. According to a 2012 statistical model developed by the University of Oslo, the proportion of countries facing internal armed conflicts will decline from around
15% in 2009 to an estimated 7% in 2050.

Security-first spending, strategies and policies: Persistent geopolitical tensions and new technologies will heighten the importance of energy security, defence and maritime security, health and food security, and cybersecurity.

#2 Environmental trends

Mainstream use of climate technology, including carbon removal solutions: Climate technologies, including carbon removal solutions, will become a mainstream and necessary component in net zero scenarios for 2050.

A chronic shortfall in environmental financing: Debates on environmental finance (green and climate finance) will continue to take place through 2050, as it is unlikely that discussions on the volume, direction and pace of finance will be resolved in the short to medium term.

Standardised environmental reporting and disclosure norms: Environmental reporting will become standardised. It will become a requirement for businesses and governments to monitor, collect, assess and disclose regular, comparable data on a number of environmental challenges across sectors

Adapting to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss: Societies will ramp up efforts to adapt to and manage the real impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss through increased investments, the development of new technologies, and migration of people and economic activities.

#3 Natural resource trends

The widespread deployment of food technology and the primacy of alternative proteins: Food technology will come in different forms, and will be deployed as more resourceefficient solutions are required to meet demand for nutritious and sustainable food.

Dominance of renewable energy: Renewable energy will become the dominant source of energy as pressures to decarbonise mount, investments continue to increase and technologies advance.

The use of novel and/or unconventional fuel sources gains momentum: Outside of renewables, growing demand for cleaner and more sustainable energy
sources will lead to the discovery and use of novel forms of energy such as hydrogen, methanol, biomass, nuclear fusion or waste.

The battle for critical minerals and resources: Growing demand for renewable energy and new sensor- or chip-based technologies will increase the economic and geopolitical influence of countries that house minerals, rare earth sand large sources of renewable energy. The growth of renewable energy will also see critical minerals—such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite—become the basis of economic growth, geopolitical competition and strategic trade alliances.

Credit: LR

To remind, Lloyds Register, this month published a report, Maritime Decarbonisation Hub, which highlights that e-ammonia might become the most widely used marine fuel among hydrogen-based fuels, while liquefied bio-methane is expected to lead among biofuels.

According to Lloyds Register, as the maritime sector prepares to decarbonise its activities and supply chains, while navigating an increasingly uncertain geopolitical, economic and social landscape, it is important for industry and policymakers to start envisaging what possible futures could look like.