Maritime business activities in developing countries are becoming much more prominent, and the global role of these countries has expanded greatly. In some cases their presence in specific sectors is strong and well-established, and has been a feature for many years. In other cases involvement is growing and is relatively recent. This progress has been shaped by economics and policy influences.
On 20th November 2012, I led a seminar for the London Universities Maritime Law and Policy Group entitled ‘Developing countries: an expanding role in maritime business’. My lecture focused upon the wide range of activities in which nations within this grouping of economies participate. Several short case studies were presented. These illustrated how developing countries are involved in a diverse range of businesses including shipbuilding, shipowning, containership operating, ship recycling, ship classification, seafarer supply and international port operations, and are extending this range to other maritime sectors. China, Brazil, Chile, Bangladesh, India, Philippines and UAE are among countries which have achieved notable successes.
An impressive performance was achieved by Brazil, rapidly expanding its owned and controlled fleet of ships. Although one of the smaller shipowning nations, Brazil’s fleet has been one of fastest growing. At the beginning of 2011 Brazilian owners had vessels on order equivalent to over 100% of the existing 10.9 million deadweight fleet total. A large part of overall growth in the past couple of years has been comprised of the vast fleet of mega-size 400,000 dwt ore carriers being delivered since early 2011 to the Brazilian mining company Vale. These ships are designed to reduce transportation costs and improve the attractions of Brazil’s iron ore supplies for buyers around the world, especially where long-haul routes are a feature.
One of the most remarkable success stories is shipbuilding in China. In the early 2000s Chinese shipbuilding output was a very minor part of the world total. Annual newbuilding deliveries of all types of vessel, from Chinese shipyards, totalled 2-3 million deadweight tonnes. A very rapid rise then took place, raising the total to 36m dwt in 2009, followed by almost a doubling over the next two years, to 67m dwt in 2011. This astounding performance enabled China to become, from 2010 onwards, the world’s largest shipbuilder by output volume, overtaking South Korea. Measured by value of ships completed, however, South Korea remained some way ahead, because of its competitiveness in building more sophisticated, higher technology and therefore more expensive ships.