DNV GL has published the Maritime Forecast to 2050 which analyses the impact of the changing global energy system on the shipping industry through to 2050.
The group’s Energy Transition Outlook indicates that by mid-century, the energy supply mix is likely to split equally between fossil and renewable. Advances in energy efficiency will also see the world’s demand for energy flattening after 2030. The Maritime Forecast projects that heading to 2030, shipping will continue to enjoy robust growth. From 2030 to 2050, demand continues to increase, but less rapidly – with the growth primarily in non-energy commodities, such as the container trade and non-coal bulk.
Trade measured as ton-miles is expected to experience 2.2 percent annual growth over the period 2015–2030 and 0.6 percent per year thereafter, driven mostly by non-energy commodities. Trade in individual energy commodities will decline as their use declines: coal first, then crude oil, thereafter oil products. Despite projected growth in oil imports in some regions, global seaborne crude oil and oil products, trade will reach peak volumes before 2030.
Natural gas – as LNG and LPG – will, in contrast, experience sustained growth, as gas takes over as the largest energy source. Global gas consumption will decline after 2035, but growth in seaborne gas trade will be sustained as demand shifts to areas with less domestic gas and many new sources of unconventional gas are not connectable by pipelines.
Bulk transport will continue to grow, but with notable cargo differences. Bulk commodities will see average growth of 1.8 percent per year in ton-miles to 2030, and 0.6 percent per year thereafter, driven by strong increases in grain, moderate rises in ore and other minor bulk and a decline in coal.
Declining offshore oil and gas activity, and decreasing initiation of new fields, will lead eventually to less offshore-related shipping activity, though fast growth in offshore wind will partly mitigate this.
The global cargo fleet will track the changes in trade volumes, but digitalization and improved utilization mean that the fleet will grow somewhat more slowly than trade. Measured by deadweight tonnage, the crude oil fleet will decline by approximately 20 percent by 2050, with the decline beginning after 2030. The product tankers fleet remains stable. The bulk segment is expected to experience a moderate growth of about 50 percent. The greatest increase comes in the container and gas segments where fleet tonnage rises almost 150 percent. For other cargo vessels, a doubling of tonnage by 2050 is expected.