Inside Logistics

International freight transport to quadruple by 2050

Freight will replace passenger traffic as main source of CO2 emissions from surface transport.


January 30, 2015
by MM&D Online Staff

Paris, France—In the face of shifting global trade patterns, international freight transport volumes will grow more than fourfold (factor 4.3) by 2050. Average transport distance across all modes will increase 12 percent.

As a result, CO2 emissions from freight transport will grow by 290 percent 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 percent) and intra-Asian (+403 percent) 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 percent of trade-related international freight, but 30 percent of CO2 emissions. This is important: Domestic transport is shaped by national policies, less by international agreements.

These are some of the key findings of the ITF Transport Outlook 2015, presented at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France.

“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. 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 underutilized;
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 utilization: Improve load factors and reduce idle times across supply chains.