Inside Logistics

Global trade: International freight transport to quadruple by 2050

January 27, 2015

PARIS, Fra.–The ITF Transport Outlook 2015 was released at a media briefing in Paris today. It presents long-term projections for future demand of passenger as well as freight transport and this year focuses on two key messages: shifting trade patterns are increainge transport distances by 12%, and the North Pacific surpasses the North Atlantic as a main trading route.

In the face of shifting global trade patterns, international freight transport volumes will grow more than fourfold  (factor 4.3) by 2050, while average transport distance across all modes will increase 12%.

As a result, CO2 emissions from freight transport will grow by 290% by 2050. Freight will replace passenger traffic as main source of CO2 emissions from surface transport.

The North Pacific route will surpass the North Atlantic as the world’s most busy trading corridor in terms of freight volume (in tonne-km), growing 100 percentage points faster than the North Atlantic. The Indian Ocean corridor will see large growth, with freight volume quadrupling.

Intra-African (+715%) and intra-Asian (+403%) freight volumes will see particularly strong growth to 2050. Road transport will dominate here due to lack of other modes.

The share of domestic transport of international freight flows, identified here for the first time, accounts for 10% of trade-related international freight, but 30% of COemissions. This is important: Domestic transport is shaped by national policies, less by international agreements.

“The foreseeable increase in global freight represents an unprecedented challenge for the world’s transport systems“, said ITF Secretary-General José Viegas at the launch.

“Increasing capacity constraints in transport can act as a brake on economic growth,” he said.

“A quadrupling of freight emissions can seriously undermine climate change mitigation.”

Viegas pointed to four action items that would help to avoid such a scenario:

  1. Improve capacity management: Many freight facilities are underutilised
  2. Invest in missing links: More alternative and multi-modal connections increase efficiency
  3. Prepare for mega-ships: Adapt infrastructure to more and bigger vessels, including the port-hinterland connections
  4. Increase vehicle utilisation: Improve load factors and reduce idle times across supply chains.

ITF also released projections for transport modes (road, rail, air, sea) and for 19 commodities and product groups. Related topics will be discussed at ITF’s summit on “Transport, Trade and Tourism” on 27-29 May 2015 in Leipzig, Germany.