Ocean's future to 2050

A sectoral and regional forecast of the Blue Economy


The maritime sector plays a major role in the Blue Economy. Shipping is the mode of transport for about 80% of global trade. Special vessels support all ocean-based activities, and ports connect seaborne trade with land-based logistics. We forecast a shift in the types of cargo transported and vessels employed between 2018 and 2050. The total trade volume and the merchant fleet will see a smaller growth compared to historical trends. 

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Although serving a growing and more prosperous population, future trade will also be impacted by the move towards more circular economies reflecting a more climate-conscious and sustainability-focused society. The energy transition’s ongoing decline in coal and oil consumption, and a much later reduction in natural gas use, will significantly impact future fleets. The resulting changes in seaborne trade will also affect infrastructure like shipyards and ports. 

The energy transition will also impact special vessels serving offshore energy production, as oil and gas production declines and wind grows. The growth in offshore wind will require investments in support vessels both for the construction and operating phases. Special vessels are discussed separately from the rest of the merchant fleet, as these are not driven primarily by transportation demand.

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Dive deeper: download the full Ocean's Future to 2050 report

PDF, 104 pages