These days, the term “systematically relevant” almost seems to be used a bit too often. But it definitely does apply to one industry: Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has made it clear once more just how important shipping is when it comes to keeping people well supplied. ECSA, the European Community Shipowners’ Association, of which the VDR is a leading member, has stressed the “crucial role played by shipping in maintaining trade between Europe and its partners and within the Single Market, so that vital supplies – such as food, medical equipment and building materials – do not run out.”
Even regardless of the pandemic, the sector is a key factor for Europe’s prosperity. This is documented by the updated figures presented by Oxford Economics, a UK-based consulting and analysis firm, at the beginning of 2020. The report finds that the shipping companies of European countries (including Norway and the UK) control over 23,000 merchant vessels, or almost 40% of the world fleet. However, since the total tonnage increased a bit less than the global average since 2010 (51.7% vs. 57.6%), Europe’s share of the global market has slightly decreased. The so-called “Oxford Study” published by ECSA finds That the European shipping industry directly contributed €54 billion to the EU’s GDP in 2018. If one also takes into account the spillover effects into other sectors (e.g. supply chain and worker spending multiplier impacts), the total contribution to GDP was as high as €149 billion (see graphics). In simple terms, for every euro the shipping industry generates, another €1.80 is created elsewhere in the economy. The industry directly employs 685,000 people in Europe and supports up to 2 million jobs when the impacts on other sectors are factored in. Roughly one in six of those who are directly employed work on land. The labour force in maritime shipping is also above average in terms of productivity: Per capita, they contributed €78,000 to the EU’s GDP – or almost 24% more than the average for all workers in the EU.