15 September 2023


The International Transport Forum (ITF) published this week a report on the challenges currently faced by coastal shipping (maritime transport that takes place between ports on the same continent) and suggests actions to policymakers to address them. The report is the result of a roundtable of experts on coastal shipping and combined transport which took place in October 2022.

The report notes that coastal shipping market has become more concentrated in recent years, in a similar way as the ocean shipping market: the market share of the top 10 operators in the container sector grew from 60% in 2006 to 78% in 2021. It also shown that the biggest ocean carriers have integrated coastal shipping in their activities, in parallel with vertical integration of terminal and logistics activities, which could potentially raise competition concerns. The report recognises that ‘many countries have been hesitant to liberalise maritime cabotage regulations, which have historically been adopted in pursuit of other policy goals, such as national security, but have sometimes reduced competition and service quality.’

The decarbonisation of coastal shipping is identified as one of the main challenges for this industry in the coming years: it will require substantial investments from both shipowners/ship operators in new fleet, but also from port and terminal operators, with new infrastructure and potentially production sites of green energy. The report recommends governments to include coastal shipping in their national decarbonisation strategies and propose incentives to zero-emission shipping, such as conditioning subsidies or public service obligations to decarbonisation targets or push initiatives for the adoption of international measures at IMO level.

Source: ITF