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Global Dynamics by Alan Wilson

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Chapter 2The Global Trade System and Its Evolution

Simone Caschili and Francesca Medda

2.1 The Evolution of the Shipping and Ports' System

Shipping volumes have grown dramatically in recent decades, and this growth has been coupled with changing technologies – particularly through larger ships and improved port logistics – and with changing geographies. At present, many authors estimate that maritime shipping ranges between 77% and 90% of the intercontinental transport demand for freight by volume compared to shipping in the 1980s when it was around 23% (Rodrigue et al., 2006, 2009; Glen and Marlow, 2009; Barthelemi, 2011). The total number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) carried worldwide ranged from 1,856,927 in 1991 to 7,847,593 in 2006 (Notteboom, 2004), and the average vessel capacity has grown from 1900 TEU in 1996 to 2400 TEU in 2006 (Ducruet and Notteboom, 2012). Kaluza et al. 2010 attribute this substantial increase to the growth in trans-Pacific trade. The lower cost per TEU-mile in long distance transport for large quantities of goods has also driven this growth (Rodrigue et al., 2006) coupled with significant technical improvements in size, speed and ship design as well as automation in port operations (Notteboom, 2004; Rodrigue et al., 2009). For instance, in 1991, the use of vessels larger than 5000 TEU was unheard of, but by 1996 large vessels constituted about 1% of the world's fleet, increasing to 12.7% in 2001 and 30% in 2006.

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