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Shipping industry

Research guide

Published: 27 Jul 2017 Updated: 08 Sep 2020 Update History

Exclusive content
Access to our exclusive resources is for specific groups of students and members.

Use our industry guide to find key background information, market research, import and export guidelines, statistics, legislation, trade bodies and trade publications.

The Business & Industry Guides series is produced by the Library & Information Service for ICAEW members and ACA students.

We can compile tailored key players reports, mailing lists, market reports, benchmarking reports and industry news. Our enquiry team can also research other industry-specific information, such as taxation, for you. Call us on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or email library@icaew.com.

Trends and forecasts

Online articles

The library provides full access to articles from leading business, finance and management journals.

Access to articles is provided subject to suppliers’ terms of use.

Useful links

Transportation & Logistics Trends 2019
Annual publication from PwC Strategy& looking at major trends, challenges and opportunities for transportation and logistics companies globally.

Shifting patterns: The future of the logistics industry
Paper from PwC on key areas of disruption facing transportation and logistics companies. These include new technology, new market entrants, new customer expectations and new business models. Discusses the implications for companies and possible futures for the industry. Published in 2016.

KPMG Transport Tracker
Regular bulletin covering key global transport market indicators and trends across shipping and sea freight, aviation and express logistics.

Market research

Market research reports focusing on this business sector are available from a number of market research specialists. In most cases these reports are available to fee-paying subscribers or on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Industry profiles and SWOT analyses

Industry profiles give an overview of market size in different countries or regions, the competitive landscape and provide a forecast of market performance. These profiles are available exclusively for ICAEW members and ACA students through the Library & Information Service.

SWOT analyses examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for major companies operating in this sector are available.

If you experience any problems accessing these resources, please see our online resources troubleshooting FAQ.

Other market research specialists

Some free information is available from the following market research specialists, ranging from industry news to executive summaries of the reports.

A full listing of reference products and research reports for the industrial transportation sector from Euromonitor, with a range of global, country and company level reports. Each report provides a contents listing and a useful executive summary reporting on the key trends in each country report.

Business and industry research specialists offering reports on a wide range of sectors, including sea and coastal freight water transport. Report snapshots, table of contents and a sample report are available. The company also produces global industry research reports.

Report from Mintel covering the UK logistical services market. The website includes a summary and the option to view a contents listing.

Industry news

Need to find the latest news on this industry sector? We can carry out industry news searches using a range of trade titles and general business sources through our databases. To discuss your requirements, please contact the enquiry team on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or at library@icaew.com.

Statistics on the UK

Department for Transport

The Department for Transport compiles maritime and shipping statistics for:

  • domestic waterborne freight
  • ports
  • sea passengers
  • shipping fleets
  • seafarers

Office for National Statistics

The Annual Business Survey (ABS) from the Office for National Statistics collects financial information covering UK production, construction, distribution and service industries. Statistics available include:

  • number of enterprises;
  • total turnover;
  • approximate gross value added at basic prices;
  • total purchases of goods, materials and services;
  • total employment costs;
  • total net capital expenditure;
  • total net capital expenditure – acquisitions;
  • total net capital expenditure – disposals;
  • total stocks and work in progress – value at end of year;
  • total stocks and work in progress – value at beginning of year;
  • total stocks and work in progress – increase during year.

The dataset Non-financial business economy, UK: Sections A to S includes statistics for:

  • Building of ships and boats (30.1)
    See Section C: Manufacturing
  • Agents involved in the sale of machinery, industrial equipment, ships and aircraft (46.14)
    See Division 46: Wholesale trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles
  • Sea and coastal passenger water transport (50.1)
    See Section H: Transport and storage
  • Sea and coastal freight water transport (50.2)
    See Section H: Transport and storage
  • Services incidental to water transportation (52.22)
    See Section H: Transport and storage
  • Renting and leasing of water transport equipment (77.34)
    See Section N: Administrative and support service activities

Statistics on Europe


The European Commission's statistics hub, Eurostat, compiles a range of data on maritime transport in the EU, including:

Statistics on the Americas

Bureau of Transport Statistics (US)

The US Bureau of Transport Statistics provides access to a large number of freight data and statistics, including figures on container ports, international piracy and maritime vessels. A selection of quick facts includes data on:

  • what is shipped
  • top commodities by value, weight and ton-miles
  • domestic freight, TransBorder, international, state transportation profiles, commodity flow survey state profiles
  • trends in shipment size, modal shares and length of haul
  • economic impact of freight.

Maritime Profile of Latin America and the Caribbean

The Maritime Profile of Latin America and the Caribbean, a project of the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), presents statistics on port movements and maritime markets in the region.

Statistics on Asia


ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, produces an annual Statistical Yearbook which includes a chapter on transport and communication. Figures by country cover:

  • number of domestic ports
  • domestic passenger traffic
  • domestic cargo throughput
  • number of international ports
  • international passenger traffic
  • international cargo throughput.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore issues port statistics covering:

  • vessel arrivals and shipping tonnage by type
  • tanker arrivals and shipping tonnage by type
  • vessel calls by purpose
  • total cargo
  • total container throughput
  • bunker sales.

Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board

The Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board (HKMPB) offers regularly updated statistics on theShipping Industry of Hong Kong in PDF format. Statistical tables include:

  • Number and gross tonnage of ships registered in Hong Kong
  • Number of authorized ship insurers in Hong Kong
  • Authorized insurers in Hong Kong – underwriting results of ship business
  • Number of establishments and number of persons engaged of major industry groups of the shipping industry
  • Business receipts and other income of major industry groups of the shipping industry
  • Value added and value added per person of major industry groups of the shipping industry

Marine Department (Hong Kong)

The Hong Kong Marine Department collates monthly, quarterly and year-to-date port and maritime statistics including figures on vessels, container throughput and cargo throughput.

National Bureau of Statistics of China

The National Bureau of Statistics of China publishes an annual China Statistical Yearbook which can be accessed through its listing of annual data. The Transport, Post and Telecommunication Services section includes figures on freight traffic by region and volume of freight handled in coastal ports.

Global statistics

International Chamber of Shipping and International Shipping Federation

The International Chamber of Shipping and International Shipping Federation offer a comprehensive shipping facts website. Data includes:

  • Top 20 largest shipping flags
  • Top 20 beneficial ownership countries
  • Numbers and nationality of world's seafarers
  • Number of ships (by total and trade)
  • Value of volume of world trade by sea
  • Top ten container operators

Review of Maritime Transport

The annual Review of Maritime Transport is published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Online statistics available in the UnctadStat database include figures on world merchant fleet and maritime transport indicators.

World Shipping Council

The World Shipping Council provides facts and figures including data on the composition of the shipping industry and the role of liner shipping. It also publishes an annual list of the Top 50 world container ports.



The Office for National Statistics publication Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) includes average employment costs within this sector which can be found in Table 14. Average employment costs are provided for full-time employees, part-time employees and all employees.

The data includes average employment costs for:

  • ship and hovercraft officers; and
  • seafarers (merchant navy); barge, lighter and boat operatives.

The annual Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), published by the Office for National Statistics, includes total employee and employment estimates for different industries for Great Britain and the UK. Figures are broken down to show full-time/part-time and public/private splits. The dataset Industry – Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES): Table 2 includes statistics for:

  • Building of ships and boats (301)
  • Agents involved in the sale of machinery, industrial equipment, ships and aircraft (46140)
  • Sea and coastal freight water transport (502)
  • Services activities incidental to water transportation (52220)
  • Renting and leasing of freight water transport equipment (77342)

Other regions

Please see individual Country resources pages for links to sources of national statistics.

Legislation and regulation


Gov.uk provides some guidance on the main legislation applicable to various sectors, including maritime vessels and work at sea.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a section on ports, which includes latest regulations affecting this industry.


The European Maritime Safety Agency list relevant legislative texts with summaries and links to the full text of directives and regulations.

Gov.uk guidance on Air, sea, road and rail transport between the UK and EU


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) produces a monthly current awareness bulletin giving summaries of articles published in the legal and technical press.

UK key players, ratios and trends

We can produce reports on this sector using selected information from the FAME company database. Reports are available for:

  • Building of ships and boats
    UK SIC (2007) Code 30.10
  • Sea and coastal passenger water transport
    UK SIC (2007) Code 50.10
  • Sea and coastal freight water transport
    UK SIC (2007) Code 50.20
  • Service activities incidental to water transportation
    UK SIC (2007) Code 52.22

Summaries of the three types of report we can produce are given below. You can find further information, a sample report, pricing details and an online order form on our industry sector reports page.

We also operate a bespoke reports service with results tailored to your specifications. Please contact our enquiry team on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or at library@icaew.com to discuss your requirements.

Key players report

Our key players report looks at the top companies (by turnover) in any one of the segments within this sector. Reports usually include the top 100 companies but in more specialised sectors with fewer than 100 companies we show all companies with disclosed figures. The reports provide data on 11 comparative fields for the last available year, including:

  • turnover;
  • profit margins;
  • returns on shareholder funds;
  • solvency ratios
  • number of employees.

Our reports enable easy comparison of the top companies in this sector against each other and against the sector median, average and standard deviation in each of the 11 fields.

Mailing list

A separate mailing list report is also available with address and contact details for the top companies in any of the segments within this sector.

Market reports

Our market reports look at the aggregated data for the top companies (by turnover) for any of the segments within this sector across all the fields usually found in a company report. The reports include data for the last 10 years* and enables easy comparison of trends for the whole sector. Reports usually include the top 100 companies but in more specialised sectors with fewer than 100 companies we show all companies with disclosed figures.

*Please note the number of companies for which data is aggregated will vary for any given year.

The market reports include sections on:

  • key financials and employees;
  • profit and loss account;
  • balance sheet;
  • cash flow statement;
  • financial ratios;
  • financial trends and changes;
  • profitability trends and changes.

UK benchmarking

We offer benchmarking reports that can be used to inform your own business strategy or help you identify value-added services to offer to your clients.

Contact the enquiry team directly on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or at library@icaew.com for a report tailored to your own specific requirements.

Trade bodies

Trade journals and publications

Trade journals, B2B magazines and specialist consumer magazines are another useful source of news and statistics.

Further reading

Articles and books in the Library collection

To find out how you can borrow books from the Library please see our guide to book loans.

You can obtain copies of articles or extracts of books and reports by post or email through our document supply service.

Can't find what you're looking for?

The ICAEW Library can give you the right information from trustworthy, professional sources that aren't freely available online. Contact us for expert help with your enquiries and research.

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