Within the next 20 years, China could own a quarter of the world's merchant fleet, there will be 100 times as many offshore wind platforms, and the volume of seaborne trade will have more than doubled, according to a major, wide-ranging report into the future of the maritime industry.
The 148-page Global Marine Trends 2030 report, based on two years of research by the international ship classification society, Lloyd's Register, the defence industry company QinetiQ and Strathclyde University in the United Kingdom, was published yesterday simultaneously in London and Singapore.
Using three scenarios to model the future, it describes in detail what maritime trade, sea power and the offshore energy sectors could look like in 2030, in a world where more than 90 per cent of world trade by volume is still carried by sea.
"China, consuming three times as much oil as it does today and 60 per cent of the world's coal, will be the future marketplace for maritime trade," said Richard Sadler, the chief executive of Lloyd's Register.
"For anyone looking to the future in any important sector, they have to consider maritime. Without seaborne trade, offshore energy and naval power, the geopolitics of tomorrow will be highly fragile and quality of life precarious. The sea and its industries are vital for our global future, and what is striking is that even in the most negative of the scenarios envisaged, maritime growth is strong."
The world the report predicts is one in which Abu Dhabi's 2030 vision must fit, and reflects the whole of the UAE's commitment to growing trade through its ports.
In 2009 Abu Dhabi committed itself to cutting its economic dependency on oil. Since then it has opened Khalifa Port and is attracting industry to the huge Kizad free zone. And in Dubai, DP World is already repositioning its global presence to drive its growth through the expansion of Jebel Ali, and the construction of the new Thames Gateway container and distribution terminal in the UK.
The report predicts seaborne trade will increase from 9 billion tonnes annually to between 19 billion and 24 billion tonnes. Carrying those cargoes will be a merchant fleet controlled by China that will have increased to 24 per cent of the total number of merchant ships at sea by 2030 from about 15 per cent in 2010, according to the report.
Europe's share of the oil-tanker market will fall as low as 27 per cent from 41 per cent today, as China's share rises above 13 per cent from 7.6 per cent today.
In shipbuilding, China will account for the largest number of new deliveries by 2030, as much as 55 per cent, the report predicts.
Global oil consumption will swell to 6.58 billion tonnes in 2030, a 49 per cent rise from 2010, and iron-ore demand will rise to 3.85 billion tonnes from 1.39 billion tonnes.