Harnessing Maritime Trade for Post-COVID Recovery and Resilience-Building in the Commonwealth


Ganeshan Wignaraja
Brendan Vickers
Salamat Ali


This paper maps patterns of maritime trade in the Commonwealth with a view to exploring the effects of the pandemic and policy implications for post-COVID recovery and resilience-building in Commonwealth countries. The main findings are as follows. First, a significant presence in global coastlines, seaports and container traffic means that maritime trade is fundamental to Commonwealth countries’ global and intra-Commonwealth trade. Second, the sudden onset of the pandemic led directly to a moderate decline in shipping and maritime trade as well as indirect falls in maritime support services. Third, the maritime industry and trade patterns have been rapidly adjusting to a new operating environment with some signs of recovery. Shifts in the demand and supply of goods following the pandemic injected a new momentum in shipping, raised container freight rates to historically high levels and created challenges for trade recovery in several developing countries. However, the outlook for the shipping sector has also been altered by pre-pandemic headwinds such as rising protectionism and increasing debate regarding nearshoring and the reconfiguration of supply chains. The paper concludes by suggesting that success in the new operating environment requires Commonwealth countries to build resilience by improving the quality of seaport infrastructure, logistics and transport networks, enhancing trade openness and trade facilitation, addressing maritime security threats and increasing the environmental sustainability of shipping operations.

ITWP 2021/11 cover



31 August 2021

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